In Good Health
(from Consumer Health Digest newsletter)

religions

Christian Science declining. (#09-51 December 17, 2009)
Participation and membership in the Christian Science Church has been declining steadily for many years:
**Between 1971 and 2009 the number of U.S. practitioners and teachers listed in the Christian Science Journal fell from about 5,000 to about 1,160.
**The number of churches fell from about 1,800 to about 900.
**The current number of Christian Science "nurses" in the United States is only 20.
**Subscriptions to the Christian Science Sentinel fell from about 175,000 in 1988 to 24,130 in 2009.
**The church does not disclose how many members it has, but the current subscription figure suggests there are fewer than 50,000 members worldwide.
Christian Science contends that illness is an illusion caused by faulty beliefs, and that prayer heals by replacing bad thoughts with good ones. Christian Science practitioners work by trying to argue the sick thoughts out of the patient's mind. Consultations can take place in person, by telephone, or even by mail.
Individuals may also be able to attain correct beliefs by themselves through prayer or concentration. The steady membership decline is not surprising because the church's doctrines have little appeal to modern youth. [Barrett S. The origin and current status of Christian Science. Quackwatch, Dec 18, 2009]
http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/cs2.html
The church's efforts to include coverage of services by practitioners in proposed health care reform bills have been thwarted so far, but lobbying to gain inclusion continues.

Narconon deaths under investigation. (#12-29 August 23, 2012)
The Pittsburgh County (Oklahoma) Sheriff and state Mental Health and Substance Abuse are investigating four deaths that occurred at the Arrowhead Narconon facility in Eastern Oklahoma. Narconon, which is the Church of Scientology's drug rehabilitation program, features sauna treatments and high doses of niacin that are claimed to release drug residues from fatty tissues. The Tampa Bay Times has reported that in 2010, there were 53 Narconon centers worldwide. [Childs J, Tobin TC. Deaths at Scientology drug treatment program Narconon bring investigation. Tampa Bay Times, Aug 16, 2012] http://www.tampabay.com/news/scientology/deaths-at-scientology-drug-treatment-program-narconon-bring-investigation/1246054

Convictions in faith healing death upheld. (#13-26 July 4, 2013)
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld the convictions of Dale and Leilani Neumann and ruled that Wisconsin's religious defense to felony child abuse does not bar a homicide charge. Both were convicted of second-degree reckless homicide and were later sentenced to serve 30 days in jail per year for six years and ten years of probation. Testimony at their trials indicated that their 11-year-old daughter Madeline died of undiagnosed diabetes because instead of seeking medical help they prayed at her bedside, even after she had lapsed into a coma. The full text of the appeal court's ruling has been posted to Casewatch (link).

Christian Science Church still declining (#16-09 March 13, 2016)
Data from the Christian Science Church's online directory indicate that membership in the Christian Science Church has continued to decline. [Barrett S. Christian Science statistics: Practitioners, teachers, nurses, and churches in the United States. Quackwatch, March 13, 2016] Since 1971, the number of practitioners and teachers has dropped from 4,965 to 942, a decrease of about 5% per year; and the number of churches has dropped from 1,829 to 778, a decrease of about 2% per year. Christian Science contends that illness is an illusion caused by faulty beliefs and that prayer heals by replacing bad thoughts with good ones. Christian Science practitioners work by trying to argue the sick thoughts out of the patient's mind. Consultations can take place in person, by telephone, or even by mail. Individuals may also be able to attain correct beliefs by themselves through prayer or concentration. There is no scientific evidence that Christian Science methods influence the course of any disease. The steady membership decline is not surprising because the church's doctrines have little appeal to modern youth.

Slate blasts faith-based treatment facility (#16-20 May 29, 2016)
Slate has published a detailed investigative report that features interviews of women treated at a facility operated by Mercy Ministries. The article states that (a) the company does not require that its counselors be licensed, (b) its counselors are not permitted to provide psychotherapy, and (c) many former patients report that staff members shouted at demons to flee their body. [Miller M. The Mercy Girls: These young women enrolled in an influential Christian counseling center for help. That's not what they found. Slate, April 24, 2016] In 2008, the Sydney Morning Herald published a similar report. [Pollard R. They sought help, but got exorcism and the Bible. Sydney Morning Herald, March 17, 2008] The Australian facilities were shut down in 2009. [Pollard P. Mercy Ministries home to close. Sydney Morning Herald, Oct 29, 2009] Shortly afterward, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced:
- It had obtained undertakings from seven former directors of Mercy Ministries Incorporated and/or Mercy Ministries Limited related to misrepresentations by those entities. The undertakings included an apology and payment of AU$1,050 to each of the former residents affected by the conduct.
- Between January 2005 and June 2008, Mercy Ministries misrepresented in brochures and on its website that its services were provided for free, but most residents were required to assign their government payments from Centrelink to Mercy Ministries for the duration of their stay.
- Mercy had misrepresented that it offered professional support from psychologists, dieticians, general practitioners, social workers and counselors, although it did not employ this range of professionals. [Undertakings remedy Mercy Ministries misleading conduct. ACCC press release, Dec 16, 2009]
Another critical report was published in 2012. [Kerr L. The dark side of Mercy Ministries. Rewire, Feb 21, 2012]

ACLU blasts restrictive Catholic Hospital policies (#16-41 November 6, 2016)
The American Civil Liberties Union has published a blistering report about women who were severely harmed by being denied medically necessary care at hospitals that adhere to directives issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The report states:
- The directives prohibit a range of reproductive health services, including contraception, sterilization, many infertility treatments, and abortion, even when a woman's health or life is jeopardized by a pregnancy.
- Hundreds of hospitals adhere in part or in full to these directives.
- Many of these prohibit staff physicians from performing an abortion or sterilization even when this denial of care puts a patient at serious risk.
- Some states have laws that shield providers who follow the guidelines from liability that otherwise would be considered malpractice.
- Since federal laws and regulations require all hospitals to provide emergency care, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should systematically apply these regulations to Catholic Hospitals.
The ACLU Web site has additional information and a full copy of the report.

HHS "religious freedom" division criticized (#18-03 - January 21, 2018)
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) has objected to the pending creation of a "Conscience and Religious Freedom Division" within the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. CFI says the division places religious dogma over evidence-based health care and compassion. It states:
This new division with the OCR will be tasked with asserting a religious privilege for health care providers whose beliefs conflict with certain areas of care or particular procedures, including but not limited to abortions and sex-reassignment surgery. The Center for Inquiry maintains that the Trump administration created this division to attack, rather than defend, civil rights.
CFI believes the Trump Administration should: (a) protect abortion rights, (b) protect the lives of women with life-threatening pregnancies from being turned away by church-owned hospitals, (b) ensure that those seeking birth control can't be turned away by religious pharmacists, and (c) ensure that all employers follow the mandate in the Affordable Care Act to provide contraceptive services without co-pays. [HHS 'Religious Freedom' division robs Americans of their right to safe and secular health care. CFI press release, Jan 18, 2018]
LGBT groups have criticized the division for being a tool for enabling ongoing discriminatory denial of medical services. [Johnson C. New HHS division slammed as tool for anti-LGBT discrimination. Washington Blade, Jan 18, 2018].

CFI opposes religious-based discrimination against patients (#18-15 - April 15 , 2018)
The Center for Inquiry has urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to withdraw a proposed rule expanding the ability of religiously affiliated health care providers to refuse "any lawful health service or activity based on religious beliefs or moral convictions." [Protecting statutory conscience rights in health care. Center for Inquiry, 2018] CFI is particularly concerned about:
undermining the Title X requirement in federally funded programs for providers to offer non-directive pregnancy options, counseling, and referrals upon request for all options including pregnancy termination
women suffering pregnancy complications being denied access to miscarriage management and sterilization services
medical discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community
patients turned away from church-run hospitals without being told where they can receive the care they need
[HHS must reject rule granting religious license to discriminate against patients. CFI press release, March 27, 2018].

"Pastoral medicine licensee" arrested (#19-26 - June 30, 2019)
Martin Riding has been charged with 32 felony and 32 misdemeanor counts of practicing a profession without an appropriate license. Riding did business as ReNew For Life, which offered "alternative & holistic health services" in Radford, Virginia. Riding advertised that he was licensed by the Pastoral Medical Association (PMA). PMA claims on its Web site that "regulation of the Almighty's health care concepts is outside the jurisdiction of . . . secular regulatory boards." However, regulatory actions against PMA "licensees" have been successful in several states. [Barrett S. Some Notes on the Pastoral Medical Association and other "Private Membership Associations." Credential Watch, June 24, 2019] Riding's ReNew For Life, Web site and Facebook page are no longer posted, but PMA's Web site links to a database where Riding's profile page (now inactivated) stated that his services have included: alkaline/pH balancing, Bach Floral Therapy, cancer diet coaching, essential oil therapy, Raindrop Therapy, Zyto Biometric Scan, thermography exams, and cupping. The indictment contains no details about Riding's alleged wrongdoing, but a local newspaper has reported that search warrant applications and interviews indicate that he had cameras located in exam rooms where women were directed to undress and photos of women were taken without their consent. [Gangloff M. Radford alternative medicine therapist charged with 64 counts of practicing without a license. The Roanoke Times, June 17, 2019]

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acronyms : FDA: Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov
FTC: Federal Trade Commission http://www.ftc.gov/
AMA: American Medical Association http://www.ama-assn.org/ama

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page created: August 24th 2011 and last updated: July 12th, 2019