God Told Them To Do It (September 2002)

Widow Burned to Death. Kuttu Bai, 65, burned to death on her husband’s funeral pyre in a village in central India on Aug. 6, in an apparent act of “Sati,” or ritual burning. Fifteen people were arrested in the state of Madhya Pradhesh on charges of murder and conspiracy, including the woman’s two grown sons, believed to be after their mother’s property. Police said a crowd of 1,000 villagers, some throwing stones, blocked them from rescuing the woman. A woman who dies through Sati is said to become a “goddess,” making it possible for villagers to cash in on her death through tourism. Source: BBC News, Aug. 8, 2002

“Honor Killings” Rampant. Human rights experts report 430 cases of “honor killings” in Pakistan during the first four months of 2002. The “tradition,” legitimized by religious extremists, sentences women to die if they dishonor male family members. Most killings are sanctioned by a traditional tribal council, such as the one which sentenced a 30-year-old woman to public gang-rape in June after her 12-year-old brother walked down the street with a woman from another tribe. Source: ABCNews.com, Aug. 5, 2002

Women Killed as “Witches.” Ten local Bengal tribesmen were arrested for killing five women in India’s West Bengal state. They told police a local priest ordered them to kill the women, contending they were witches responsible for a spate of recent deaths from malaria and diarrhea. The women were kidnapped on July 29 in the Jalpaiguri district. Women’s rights groups say greedy priests, chiefs or relatives label women as witches to seize property. Source: BBC News, Aug. 1, 2002

Father Convicted in Son’s Death. Jacques Robidoux, 29, a member of “The Body,” a Massachusetts-based Christian fundamentalist sect, was convicted of murder in June for the starvation death of his son, Samuel, who died three days before his first birthday. Roubidoux’s sister claimed she had a religious prophecy that he and his wife Karen had to withhold solid food from their son, even though Karen was pregnant and not producing enough breast milk to nourish him. Roubidoux testified tearfully that he believed to the end that a miracle would save his emaciated baby, who wasted away in 51 painful days. Karen is scheduled to go on trial in September for second-degree murder. Source: Associated Press, June 17, 2002

Doomsday Leader Doomed. A leader in the doomsday cult that killed 12 people and sickened thousands in a nerve gas attack in Tokyo in 1995 was sentenced to death in late June. Tomomitsu Niimi was also found guilty of slaying a lawyer and his family, but said he was just following the orders of religious leader Aum Shinrikyo. Source: Associated Press, June 26, 2002

Drumstick Beatings. A Japanese faith healer, Sachiko Eto, was sentenced to death for beating six people to death with a drumstick during a 1995 exorcism ritual. The group carried out drumstick beatings for about a year. Source: Associated Press, May 11, 2002
Protective Services Aids Boy. The state of Arizona took medical custody of a 9-year-old Prescott boy whose parents refused to give him follow-up chemotherapy and radiation treatment after the removal of a tumor in April. “Our religious beliefs are in our heavenly father,” said Stephen Schaffer, father of Samuel. Source: Arizona Republic, May 7, 2002

Starving Baby Rescued. A vegan couple in Queens, New York, were arrested in April for starving their baby daughter by denying her breast milk and formula, feeding her only nuts, fruits and vegetables. At 16 months, Ice Swinton weighed only ten pounds when authorities found her close to death last November. Joseph and Silva Swinton, both 31, contend veganism is their religion. Ice, in foster care, is still developmentally delayed. Source: New York Post, May 6, 2002

Father Kills Daughter, 11. William Harrold, 51, of Seattle, Wash., was charged with first-degree murder after he “decided to give his only child to God,” and shot Tiffany Grandquist, a 5th grader. The shooting occurred after St. Therese parochial school said she was “acting up,” and asked the family to find a new school. Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 20, 2002

New Zealand Parents Guilty. A jury in New Zealand found parents of baby Caleb Moorehead guilty of manslaughter in March, after failure to provide the necessaries of life for three of the baby’s six months. Caleb died on March 29, 2001, of broncho-pneumonia due to vitamin B12 deficiency caused by the Mooreheads’ vegan diet. The Seventh Day Adventist parents kidnapped the baby from a hospital before he was slated to get a life-saving vitamin injection, considering his illness a test of their faith. Source: New Zealand Herald, May 6, 2002

TB Victim Dies. A 24-year-old Tulsa woman who refused treatment for tuberculosis because of her religious convictions died after an 11-month quarantine in her home. Maria Rebecca Rossiwall refused treatment as a member of the Christian Science Church. The Christian Science practitioner who prayed for her almost daily told the media he reduced his usual fee of $20 per ministerial session for her. Source: Daily Oklahoman, May 31, 2002

Freedom From Religion Foundation