Child abuse by religious extremism and politics

A horrific story in the Sydney Morning Herald: the headline “A prisoner of family and the state” sums it up perfectly. Kylie Fitter was just 15 when she helped her father and brother kill their mother. That makes her sound like a monster, but in fact she was pure victim.

Kylie, born three months premature, already remained to her parents fragile and vulnerable. Sheltered from life, she was an introverted girl with no friends, or self-esteem, and little ability to think for herself. Her mother waited on her. Her father filled her head with extreme Christian beliefs. He was domineering, passionate about his God and his family. … Both Kylie’s parents suffered abuse as children. Out of love for their children, they kept them close and fiercely protected. They moved a lot; there were several schools, and charismatic churches. By 13 Kylie was on Prozac. She left school at 14, a social misfit, believing she was stupid, and in isolation filled her days playing computer games. Her brother was spiralling into schizophrenia, hearing “demons’ voices” and becoming fixated on harming his mother.

Where in the hell, one wonders, was social services? But the state’s role gets worse. Kylie was locked up (but not convicted on the ground that she was mentally ill) after the killing, for an indefinite term. Three times now, (and soon to be a fourth) medical experts have said that her mental state is basically healthy, and she is no threat at all (if indeed, removed from her family, she ever was). She has a family that has informally adopted her, is studying for a university degree, and after that horrific beginning has some sort of hope of building a life for herself.

One thing stands in her way. Politics.

In NSW, the power to release a forensic patient lies with politicians, who are subject to lobbying and voter backlash. …effective power resides with the Minister Assisting the Health the Health Minister, Cherie Burton. … This year she rejected all six recommendations for conditional release, insisting on more conditions, and more information. … In 2000, the Government released on strict conditions 70 per cent of those recommended by the tribunal; last year it freed only 30 per cent.

There’s an election this year.  The only hope might be that even in the increasingly rightwing, authoritarian Australia, the profound injustice here will lead to a change in the law, taking control out of the hands of politicians.

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, parents are suing a school for reading out a story in which  two men – prince and prince (nice) – find each other and live happily ever after. This, remember, is in a state that allows gay marriage, so this is perfectly in line with societal norms.

The suit filed in the US District Court in Boston on Thursday alleges violations of the federal civil rights of the two sets of parents, David and Tonia Parker, and Rob and Robin Wirthlin. All are devout Judaeo-Christians.

“I was concerned that I had not broached this topic with my young child yet and I was concerned that the point of view that was being presented was different from our family’s personal moral values,” Robin Wirthlin told a news conference.

All the more reason for your child to be given an independent moral framework, to learn that however odd and twisted his or her homelife, there are other options. Otherwise that child might end up separated from the world, unable to function in it, just like poor Kylie. Your child is not your possession, to be shaped into a form you think is appropriate. They are an independent human being who can, and must, develop a mind of their own. Any other result is tragedy.


  • Clanger
    April 29, 2006 - 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Re: “Your child is not your possession”

    Good point, well put, but thats America. They have an awful lot of religious loonies over there, and they may be gaining the upper hand under President Twat.

    They may yet come to a point where they have to decide whether it is better to continue the fight against a coalition of barnpots messing up society for everyone else, or create a state-within-a-state, with different laws, where religious folk can go and ignore reality, social development, democracy, and evolution to their heart’s content.

    In one sense thats an admission of defeat, and a desertion of their children, who will suffer, and who will be treated as the ideological property of their parents.

    However it may just save the remainder of society from a new Dark Age.

    The prospect of packing all the jehovahs witnesses off to Slough, never having to answer the door to them again, does have some appeal.

    Religious belief is gentrified superstition, and superstition is just a euphemism for ignorance.

  • April 29, 2006 - 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Is “Judaeo-Christian” a new sect? With it’s own “devout” wing, no less?

    Aside from that, this is a very sad post.

  • April 30, 2006 - 8:31 am | Permalink

    I understand the members or officials of certain Christian groups, trending towards extremes, like to talk about “Judeao-Christian values” because they think it makes them sound more inclusive. So that is a self-fashioned label. Applying a media rule that people should be known by the name they wish to be known, I guess so.

  • Clanger
    April 30, 2006 - 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Wikipedia has a piece on it:

    I’d append to my previous comment that I was thinking of Vatican City, not the Warsaw ghetto. A number of religious groups have expressed a desire to go one further than simply being a community (as the Amish often live) or having denominated lands (as with the displaced native people of Australia, the US, and Siberia).

    The suggestion is that if we can’t get along together, it is better to get along apart, than spend the next millennia ripping into each other as we have done until now.

    To work, such a scenario requires a mutual acceptance that each cannot seek to legislate how the other live.

    Not so much capitalism v. communism, as religiously governed v. secularly governed, with broad agreement on major issues that cover both (ie. the environment).

    It is an alternative to one side trying to hammer the other into submission through continued aggro.

    Whilst many of us see a move from religious to secular as normal social development, a ‘growing up’ of the human race, with individuals making their own decisions and setting their own ethical boundaries without the use of a deity as a proxy-power centre in a social hierarchy, this view is not shared by everyone.

    Such a view is a NextGen rewrite of the Whig interpretation of history that comes over as simply arrogant imperialism to those who disagree with it.

    People are not born with the knowledge, experience, and understanding of all previous generations, and can as easily believe the superstitions, faery stories, and general mumbo jumbo of any of dozens of organised (and disorganised) religions, as the social, biological, and physical sciences they learn in school, if they grow up in such a culture.

    For many societies, freedom is a bad thing, individual thought is a bad thing, and their children are their property.

    At some point, human society might want to consider whether a continual, global state of social and ideological warfare is tenable, as the ecosystem starts to collapse around us, or whether we need to make a form of peace, separate, and simply build walls.

    One of the first responses to such a state would be, ‘what of the hideous things that go on over the other side of the wall: ritual child abuse (non-medical circumcision for religious or tribal purposes),the oppression of women in societies that for religious reasons circumscribe their behaviour, and educational limitations (teaching creationism)’.

    Well, the answer is that, in their own barmy way, religious folk see what we see as normal (Darwinian evolution, women wearing what they want, regarding kosher animal slaughter as cruel, freedom of thought etc) as an equivalent abomination by their own rules.

    Maybe we need to separate to survive as a species. And we need a prime directive to stop each side interfering in the other.

    If globalism is going to break down national boundaries, and create supra-national groups (such as hardline Islamic and evangelical Christian), this may be the least grim way forward.

    Ultimately, it is a numbers game. If you have roughly similar numbers of people who want to live in a secular society, and in a society governed by religious tenets, this route may involve considerably less long-term death and destruction.

  • April 30, 2006 - 10:04 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been seeing plenty of antisocial behavior among the Christian extremists here in the US. They are “in the world, but not of the world,” and want to drag the rest of the civilization down with them, whether we like to be “saved” or not.

    Having W as the pResident does not help at all.

    Unfortunately, he’s used the Cuban-American community to consolidate his stranglehold on Florida. The Korean-American community is doing the same for W in California, with its extremist megachurches and very primitive moral systems.

    You recently named a post from my blog in the Friday Femme Fatales section, because I was trying to put my money where my mouth was. On an extension of this theme, I will only buy products made in countries with civilized cultures. And the two Koreas do not meet my definition of “civilized society,” based on what I’ve seen in Koreatowns here in the US. No more anti-labor Samsung TVs in my bedroom. No more anti-gay Hyundai automobiles in my garage.

  • Clanger
    May 1, 2006 - 12:52 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure you can condemn an entire nation’s population and its commercial products for specific issues.

    America has the death penalty, which many Europeans find uncivilised. That would mean no Apple, no Microsoft, and no Star Trek.

    Acorn RISC PCs are beautifully designed at the tech level, but a Star Trek ban would be going too far.

    I’d be very surprised if the PC you are using didn’t have a fair number of component parts from South Korea (and China, for that matter).

    You can’t blame a nation’s entire population, and its private industry, for their government, or for a snapshot perception of their culture, unless you are in turn, happy to be held accountable (and responsible) for both Bush’s policies, and foreign perceptions of US culture.

  • May 1, 2006 - 9:16 am | Permalink

    But it is a private choice – and a political choice. The great example of this is of course South Africa and apartheid. If enough people take action, then a country can be pushed towards change. And many might consider no Microsoft a good thing!

  • May 4, 2006 - 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Response to Clanger and Natalie:

    I am not particularly proud of what is happening in the US government either. The political climate is so badly flawed that just putting a Democrat back in charge will NOT solve the problems overnight. I am fully aware of that, and if anyone wishes to boycott the US over this, I will not object to that at all.

    I am targeting Koreatown (alongside Little Havana) because these two communities are particularly responsible for the rightward shift of their respective environments – Florida for the Cuban community, and here in Southern California for the Korean community. And after a series of murder-suicides in Koreatown, and the crass materialism seen at Korean megachurches here, I really do not trust that community at all.

    As for the two Koreas, North Korea’s human rights problems are notorious, and I would like a few liberals to tackle this issue, instead of this being a conservative pet cause for the Korean-Americans as it is now. South Korea? International pressure has ended fascism there, and international pressure will continue to push it in the correct direction. I’ve just been alerted that Hyundai is less of a homophobe than I thought – it was one of the corporate sponsors of the Los Angeles Gay Lesbian Center.

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