Wisconsin Parents Face 25 Years in Prison When They’re Sentenced in Daughter’s Prayer Death

What do you think? Do they deserve 25 years?

A Wisconsin mother and father convicted of reckless homicide for praying instead of taking their dying daughter to a doctor could spend up to 25 years in prison.

Dale and Leilani Neumann will be sentenced Tuesday in the death of 11-year-old Madeline Neumann, who died on their living room floor from undiagnosed diabetes as they prayed rather than getting her medical treatment.

Separate juries convicted each of second-degree reckless homicide in Madeline’s Easter 2008 death.

The juries ruled the parents had a legal duty to rush the girl to a doctor after she could no longer walk, talk, eat or drink. A family friend finally called 911 after the girl stopped breathing.

The parents, who have three other teen-age children, say they believe all healing comes from God. Their attorneys have said the convictions will be appealed.

Among the factors Judge Vincent Howard must consider in sentencing the parents are deterrence and protection of the public.

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76 Replies to “Wisconsin Parents Face 25 Years in Prison When They’re Sentenced in Daughter’s Prayer Death”

  1. I too believe that all healing comes from AbbaGod. but I think he gives the doctors their know how to work with him for healing…….You cannot test him….

  2. But putting these stupid and ignorant parents in prison for 25 years will solve nothing either. It was misguided religious and again certainly ignorant so-called faith. Reckless and second degree murder, perhaps under law? But this was the conscience, though again stupid and ignorant, of and in their religious ideas. But perhaps the loss of their daughter is punishment enough? What is really just here in the Christian sense? This becomes a very tough question from this standpoint!
    Fr. R.

    1. Fr. Robert, a child is dead. Yes, that is suffering, but sorry, the State demands more than that. Christians do have an obligation to the secular world, as Philemon showed us. Simply because they claim religious conscience does not dismiss them from the legalities of the situation.

        1. Onesimus robbed and escaped slavery. As a Christian he had to make restitution. While this kind folks may seek forgiveness, they still owe a debt to society.

  3. Joel,
    Note I did not say they were not quilty, but to put them in prison for 25 years will again solve nothing. The question I made was for Christians, not the state. As I in fact believe in the death penalty, and you do not (of course not here). The question is one of Christian ethics, and forgiveness. And how we hold them in this great tension here?
    Fr. R.

    1. Forgiveness is fine, Fr. Robert, and should be practiced daily, however, secularly speaking they deserve a great deal of time behind bars

      1. But again, the sacred and secular are very close for some Christians, like the Amish. I am making the point about a very real and hard issue. You are speaking easily here. Almost just from the law? But for Christians there is more than just the State, etc.
        Fr. R.

        1. Fr. Robert – regardless of their soul’s outcome, they owe much to the laws which they broke. They cannot break meaninful laws against the State and claim religious conscience.

          Their forgiveness is from God, if they merit such; I speak of the need for Christians to live within the reasonable boundaries of the State. Further, I speak of a better interpretation of biblical passages. But, mainly, I speak of Justice.

          1. Joel,
            You are missing my point, if it is just justice, then we are all doomed! For who is just? No one! I am speaking of the Christian, and how he/she sees the law here. Again, the Amish would not demand punishment. Again, the law even for the Christian is not a blanket statement. How can it be? As in Christ. This leads to Luther’s two kingdom idea. And we know where that lead with Germany.
            Fr. R.

  4. They should be jailed for pre-meditated murder and either get 25–Life or death by lethal injection.

    The notion of “conscience” related to refusal of medical care (either receipt or provision) based on religious grounds is simple foolish negligence and should be treated as such.

  5. This, like all moral and ethical problems should not and cannot be easy! This really is my only point. Think if you were really involved one way or the other?
    Fr. R.

    1. I wouldn’t be involved in the other way because I respect the Law and have the right understanding of Scripture. Fr. Robert, you seem to be advocating that because these people claim the religious conscience for the murder of their child, they should not be held accountable.

      When Muslims kill their daughters for honor killings, do we let them off as well?

      This is not a moral or ethical problem. They committed a crime which led to the death of their child. Simple.

  6. No, this subject is rather close for me, as I had to give spiritual help to a couple who had lost their child in an accident in the UK. They were later brought to charges, but they were dropped. So, I have mixed thoughts here. Every situation is it’s own, etc. All the answers I have seen here, have been just that, supposition. It is really different when one is invloved in some way.
    Fr. R.

    1. Fr. Robert, there is a big difference between an accident and murder. I grew up in a congregation which denied doctors, just like this family. They intentionally denied medical care because they believed that doctors were a sign for false faith.

      If the child had died due to an accident, indeed, this would be different. But it was no accident, but intentional.

  7. Ok, here goes, I think they will think and maybe one day Understand that command sense is better than any “religion” most of the time.. If you live for your “religion” that doesn’t mean that you are living and believing in God…God did not make all forms of Religions we have today, Man did…..God has different ways of healing too… It may not go along with what you want….The child is healed now,she is with God….The Bible teaches forgiveness,not for some but for all……

    1. Deb,

      Thank you, I think you are understanding what my point was and is. The parents are guilty, and from their ignorant “religious” conviction. The State or law says they must pay the price for their neglect and error in judgment. But as they had raised three children before, now all teens, they were not new parents. And whether we agree or not with their conscience in this religious conviction, they too are victims, and loss…their daughter. So from the Christian position, we know that we should forgive, as we must. Of course the State or law gets to make the choice of punishment, but not us Christians. I fear that most of the answers here, are simply lead by the law of God, rather than God’s forgiveness. Again, if we use this same logic, then the woman caught in adultery (a big deal in Jewish culture) should have been stoned. But Jesus said, not so in her case, but forgiveness. Every so often God allows something like this to test our Christian compassion and forgiveness. But in reality there are no test cases, what is the thing Christ would do? This is the question. Put these ignorant but no doubt greaving parents in prison for 25 years? Again, perhaps to satisfy the law…and our human anger, but it does nothing for the grace and love of God. Maybe, just maybe we can all learn something from the Amish way of forgivness here? Maybe their understanding of God’s forgivness is the better one? These are questions for myself, as I personally hold, in my mind at least, the Reformed position here.
      Fr. R.

      1. Fr. Robert,

        I think you fail to understand us.

        First, this was murder. It was not through accident or negligence, but a choice made to refuse medical care which result in the death of the child. I am unsure as the validity of a person’s Christianity who would choose to murder their child. But, even if they are a Christian – that is up to God – they still must answer for the crimes that they have done, just as Philemon’s slave did. Onesimus was forgiven, and welcomed into the community, but even then, he had to return for restitution. It seems to me that you believe that simply because these parents claim Christ for their actions, then they must be forgiven?

        Forgiveness, secondly, is not the ability of the State, but of God and His Church. We are not speaking about withholding forgiveness or compassion – but about answering for the crimes – which is the murder of their child. The law of God is forgiveness, the law of the land is restitution.

        Adultery is a moral crime – hardly punishable by the State. Murder is a crime which is. Two very different things. Again, we return to the escaped slave and thief, Onesimus, who even upon receiving the forgiveness of Christ, still had to return to his master’s home for punishment.

        Again, you seek the impose the duty of the State with the forgiveness of God. This cannot be done, less you have child molesters who claim Christ relieved of their criminal activities simply because they have ‘repented.’ I believe that we do have ‘test cases’ found in Scripture. The first being, do not murder. If we were under the OT Law, they would be stoned. I do not believe in the death penalty, so I am against that. Instead, yes, lock them up for a very long time.

        As far as who makes the laws and punishment, not one person here has said, as I Christian, I want to see them burn. We pray for them, but we and they and anyone else who commits a crime must pay obedience to the State.

        1. Joel,
          Again, you are radically missing my point! I used the Amish, as they have a more complete composite/distinct positon of both Church and State. And as I said, the issue of Philemon does not make it here, as he was within a situation within the brotherhood of Christ itself, slave or not.

          Sorry, but it seems that you are using a kind of fundamentalist and simple proof text approach to this very hard moral and spiritual problem & situation. I am taking for granted the true Christian positions of this family. And they have three other teen children who are at stake, if their parents go to prison for 25 years? And quoting Calvin on this tough modern moral issue only makes the subject that more acute. I would hope that we have come aways since Calvin’s time? I like much of his theology, etc. But the 16th century model for crimes against humanity are just a little behind us (I hope?).

          I will say no more on this subject!
          Fr. R.

          1. Fr. Robert,

            You may say nothing more on the subject, but I will. I believe that you are wholly misspeaking my position by accusing me of ‘proof texting’. That seems to be the fall back for those who seek to diminish the others. Simply because I do not agree with you in no way makes me a ‘fundamentalist.’ If you would refrain from these insults, I would appreciate it.

            Further, you assume that these are Christians, yet you cannot place them within the context of Philemon’s and Paul’s insistence on the Christian obligation to the secular world (which when I wrote it, you seemed to agree with it) which was also within the Christian family. This family claims to be Christian, so did Philemon and Onesimus. They murdered their child. Their forgiveness, like the escaped slaves, comes from God, yet they still owe a legal debt.

            The Amish, while admirable in many areas, have no standing in this situation. They serve as an example for forgiveness, which should be mandated, yet we live in world which requires penance for crimes. This family deserves it.

            I still doubt anyone’s Christian position who would murder their child. Regardless if they had 10 children, I would not want to see another child placed in the hands of these murders. Or again, if the situation was molestation, instead of murder, would you then place another child in their custody? They still hold to the same belief, and as a matter of fact, see the legal system as persecuting their Christian religion, a religion, I remind you, which okays, the death of a child over medical care. This is not Christianity, but murder. Yet, they should be forgiven because they have more children, or perhaps had 3 out of 4 children that they raised make it through alive?

            How hard of a moral decision is it to say that these parents committed murder in the name of God? And that in doing so, whether they had ‘good intentions’ it is a crime, and thus a legal debt owed to the State?

            You mentioned the Reformed framework, I showed you Calvin. He was harsh on crimes.

            These people are murders – not by accident, or negligence, but by choice. God can forgive, but considering that they believe that they had done no wrong? Further, as we learn in Philemon, regardless of the cleared debt between God and man, if a crime is committed, it still must be answered for.

          2. My Dear Joel,
            Your very argument speaks for itself, simple, fundamental and full of zeal! Again, you have missed my points completely! Why can’t you let this drop? Fundamentalism? It needs the last word.
            Fr. R.

          3. Ah, but Fr. Robert, your post-modernist take that people need forgiveness if they commit murder is simply outstanding.

      2. Finally, Fr. Robert, I believe even Calvin would agree, although to a much more extreme extent,

        This passage has been most improperly abused by the Anabaptists, and by others like them, to take from the Church the power of the sword. But it is easy to refute them; for since they approve of excommunication, which cuts off, at least for a time, the bad and reprobate, why may not godly magistrates, when necessity calls for it, use the sword against wicked men? They reply that, when the punishment is not capital, there is room allowed for repentance; as if the thief on the cross (Luke 23:42) did not find the means of salvation. I shall satisfy myself with replying, that Christ does not now speak of the office of pastors or of magistrates, but removes the offense which is apt to disturb weak minds, when they perceive that the Church is composed not only of the elect, but of the polluted dregs of society.

        (Harmony of the Gospels; commentary on Matthew 13:39 [parable of the wheat and the tares], written in 1555)

    2. Deb, I completely agree with you here. When you start to create your own religion, via gods or simply, wrong bible interpretation, then you have greatly erred. While I believe that God does heal, and He should be the one we turn to first, He does give us common sense, and a directive to preserve life.

  8. Joel,
    We all have weakness and blind spots, if I am showing mine? How bout yours? My UK friends will love the remark about me being “post-modernist”? They will be in deep laughter!
    Can we pass this now? I will give you the high ground, your blog!
    Fr. R.

  9. This debate shows why laws are important to society. Laws protect society from twisted interpretations of man-made religions that seek to oppress and victimize vulnerable populations at the hands of religous zealots. A crime is a crime. Just because someone claims to be God-fearing, doesn’t mean they deserve less jail time or leniency at all. This child was robbed of a life-time at the hands of adults that were obligated to protect her and act in her best interest. If they didn’t have the money to seek medical care, prayer is not the answer, the church giving them back their money so they can pay for her medical care is the answer. Family, friends and neighbors giving parents the money for her to access healthcare is the answer. There were many solutions to this problem, and none of them include withholding medical care. And if this child had healthcare insurance and they didn’t seek medical care, they deserve a harsher sentence, and additional charges, for creating a barrier to her accessing her healthcare coverage.

  10. Joel

    given my limited knowlesge of the case, I have to say it was not murder, and neither do I believe it was negligence.

    The parent hold/held the conviction that God would heal their daughter and rather than ignoring her, they prayed.

    Now, I happen to agree that God CAN heal instantaneously and miraculously. I also happen to agree that God allowed medicine to be discovered and developed for a reason. I believe the parents should have taken their daughter to a doctor. But they chose to put their faith in God and what they understood God wanted them to do. I admire that.

    But I am sad they had such a mistaken understanding of God and what He wants from us. I am sad for the child, the other children, and yes, the parents.

    I do not believe Philemon comes into play here because the state was not involved in that case.

    I DO believe the laws of the state need to be respected. But I think the prosecutor had leeway on whether to prosecute. It may be he was simply doing his job. Or it may be he thought he could make a name for himself. Or it may be he chose to prosecute in much the same way other Christians are being prosecuted.

    But now that they have been convicted, I only pray they receive counseling, spiritual guidance and a reduced sentence. A harsh sentence will do no good for anyone. The remaining children need to mourn with their parents, not over them. In my mind, a Christian in a position to determine sentencing should be guided by the laws – those of the state and of God, including showing mercy in the Spirit.

    1. Wb, you and I would disagree on a few points here, but not many.

      It is murder because through their actions, their child died. I know groups like this, who not merely believe that placing your faith in God is needed, but believe that regardless of the medical situation, it is the only thing. Watching someone die of cancer because of a belief like this is watching one person too many.

      I believe that God can and does heal miraculously. I would go so far as to call what happened today something of a miracle, and indeed, I was praying, hard. Further, as I have stated before, I believe that God delivered my first daughter (how cool is that, my ‘first daughter’) from something during her delivery. And there, I would without hesitation call that a miracle.

      Rome would very much have been involved, as slaves were considered property, something governed by the State. Further, Onesimus most likely stole from Philemon. Again, a crime against the state.

      Christians must always, regardless of the situation, show forgiveness, and compassion, and mercy.

      Officials of the State must obey the rules of the State.

      1. Joel,

        For it to be murder, there must be motive and intent – there wasnt. For it to be negligent homicide, they had to have ignored the problem, but they did not ignore it – they actively did do something in an attempt to alleviate the problem- they prayed.

        Granted, God did not answer that prayer in the way all of us would have preferred, but they did not neglect her. I think they were mistaken in the steadfastness of thier apparently misguided belief to not seek medical treatment, indeed, I think they should have taken their daughter to the doctor. But just because we do not agree with a choice someone made, even if there were dire and tragic consequences, that does not mean we can consider them negligent. Misguided or ignorant perhaps, but not negligent, since they WERE doing something.

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