Another case of religion-inspired child neglect

Yesterday was a weird day. Things just sort of went south in a way that I didn’t get the opportunity to lay down the usual 2,000+ words of that Insolence, either Respectful or not-so-Respectful, that you crave. Part of it was that I fell asleep on the couch at far too early an hour, but I figure that was just my body trying to tell me something. However, because I fell asleep too early, I also got up a little earlier than usual, which led me to this story in the Washington Post. It’s a sad, sad tale that we’ve heard before, this time involving a Michigan couple, Seth Welch and his wife Tatiana Fusari. More importantly, it involves religion-inspired child neglect that led to the death of their 10-month-old daughter Mary:

Although the circumstances surrounding the baby’s death remain unclear, the couple were charged Monday with felony murder and first-degree child abuse after their nearly 10-month-old daughter, Mary, was found dead in her crib from malnutrition and dehydration, according to court records cited by NBC affiliate WOOD.

The parents, both age 27, told police that they had known for at least a month that their daughter seemed underweight, and Fusari acknowledged that they declined to seek help “for fear of having her children removed by Child Protective Services, lack of faith and trust in the medical services and religious reasons,” according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by the station.

Hours after the death, Seth Welch posted this on Facebook:

The parents’ motivations? Welch made no secret of them on Facebook:

A sampling from here and elsewhere:

At the home, Seth Welch displayed his faith on handpainted signs nailed to trees and on the fence out front. “Repent. Believe. Obey,” one message painted in white reads.

CPS, their distrust of doctors and their religious beliefs have been topics of some of Seth Welch’s rambling videos on Facebook.

On doctors: “They’re priesthoods of the medical cult,” he said.

On vaccines: “The righteous shall live by faith. It’s God who is sovereign over disease and those sorts of things and, of course, ultimately deaths.”

He says someone called CPS about him when he at first refused to get his oldest daughter vaccinated, and that he didn’t get his other two kids, including Mary, vaccinated.

“It didn’t seem smart that you would be saving people who weren’t the fittest,” he said in one video. “If evolution believes in survival of the fittest, why are we vaccinating everybody? Shouldn’t we just let the weak die off and let the strong survive?”

I hate this particular antivaccine trope. Not only does it betray a lack of understanding of evolution, but it is downright cruel and evil. First, it is not the “strong” who survive and reproduce; it is the fittest, which means nothing more than the combination of traits that makes an organism most likely to survive in the environment in which it lives. Those traits might or might not include “strength.” Of course, it’s rather interesting to see a Christian fundamentalist cite a social Darwinist misunderstanding of evolution as his justification for not vaccinating and not seeking medical care. Of course, this rationale pops up only 2 minutes into the video, and Welch prefaces it by saying, “Because I believed in evolution at the time.” He then added after that, “I was in favor of that,” the “that” being to let the “weak” die off.

Which is, apparently, he did. It was child neglect, pure and simple.

It’s quite striking, though, how he claims to have come to his antivaccine views (and he calls them that) through reason before he came to them through faith. He then goes on to cite a whole bunch of very unreasonable, non-science-based reasons why he is antivaccine. For instance, he pulls out the “vaccines didn’t save us” trope, an oldie and moldy. He goes on about how he runs a farm and has had hundreds of birds, but has never seen any of them get sick “even when we had the bird flu.” He refers to the arrogance of man and how vaccines have become “idols” by which man futilely tries to ensure his survival apart from God. I could go on, but I don’t have time; I have to get to work.

I will, however, point out one thing that is a bit different about this case:

Seth Welch’s jaw dropped when a Kent County judge informed him on Monday the charges of first degree child abuse and murder held a possible life sentence.

Welch called police on Aug. 2 saying he had found his 10-month-old daughter dead in her crib at the family’s Cedar Springs home, according to court records. The responding officer noted in his police report that Mary Anne Welch’s cheeks and eyes were “sunken into her head.”

Welch, 27, and his wife who is also Mary’s mother, Tatiana Fusari, 27, were brought in for questioning where they admitted to noticing their daughter’s skinny appearance as early as a month prior.

There’s video in the link there

Note the look of shock that came over the couple’s faces as the charges were read and told that they were facing potentially life in prison without parole. Of course, the couple has two other children.

I have to admit, I was surprised. In all the years I’ve been covering cases like this on the blog, I don’t recall ever seeing charges so serious filed against the parents. Nine times out of ten the parents get off with a slap on the wrist. Sometimes they go on to let another child die from lack of medical care. Believe it or not, I’m torn over whether life in prison is too harsh a penalty for these people, but I’m certainly happy to see the local prosecutor actually taking this case much more seriously and not falling for the usual justification used to recommend probation that the other children shouldn’t have their parents taken away because of child neglect leading to the death of one of their siblings.

At least on this case, a child who suffered horribly for at least a month has not been forgotten.