Church of Wells/YMBBA Ministries

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11/06/2013 2:08 pm  #1

New Zealand

Diana Wichtel: A monstrous, lethal arrogance

When it comes to depressing idiocy, nothing that happened so far this year - or most other years - can beat the Moorhead case. This couple from Dargaville used fanatical religious belief as an excuse to allow their 6-month-old baby to die a horrible, but apparently spiritually correct, death.

Everyone knows the story by now. Caleb died of pneumonia. His weight was that of a 6-week-old baby and he was brain-damaged from a severe vitamin B12 deficiency. His vegan parents, followers of some lunatic fringe of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, treated him with cayenne pepper and put garlic in his booties instead of taking the simple medical advice that would have saved his life. 

What Caleb really died of was a severe intelligence deficiency in those he looked to for care. It's easy to say what should have happened. Neighbours and family should have turned the Moorheads in to the appropriate authorities. The staff at Starship should have caught the parents in a flying tackle as they did a runner on the one occasion when they put their baby's needs first and fronted up. No beliefs, religious or other, should be tolerated if they deny any child adequate medical care.

But in the face of deliberate, determined ignorance of this calibre, there's no guarantee anything could have been done. We're dealing here with superstitious thinking that predates laws, medicine and basic common sense. To ensure their spiritual purity, these parents were willing to sacrifice their child. Surely this was a bizarre and isolated case, I thought. Then I went on the internet. You could be there for days, weeping over stories of innocent children dying agonising and pointless deaths while their parents prayed ( is a harrowing place to start).

Then I tuned in to talkback. Host Michael Laws said all the right things about the Moorhead case, as did some callers, but soon the fruit loops were phoning in. Here are the reasons some talkback Einsteins gave to justify the killing of Caleb Moorhead:  His parents believed they were doing the right thing; Deborah Moorhead allegedly had a bad experience with doctors as a teenager; the medical profession can be arrogant; religious beliefs must be respected; parents should have total rights when it comes to their children; because the Moorheads made a mistake and would have to live with it for the rest of their lives.

Dear, oh dear. Hitler believed he was doing the right thing, too. So did Osama bin Laden. As for living with their mistakes, the Moorheads have both said that, even with the benefit of hindsight, they would have done nothing different.

This case isn't about religious choice. Caleb had no choice. It's about using religion to justify monstrous, lethal arrogance. Religion is about serving God. This is about trying to be God. The Moorheads used religion as an excuse to place themselves above the laws and conventions that allow people to live together in a civilised society. It's the sort of thinking that has led to most of the bad things done in the name of beliefs. It all, as Justice Rhys Harrison was to say at the Moorheads' sentencing, "defies rational belief".

I went along in the hope of understanding how such a thing could happen in the 21st century and came away no wiser, if a lot sadder. Justice Harrison, measured but clearly furious, gave an excoriating summing up of the evidence. He quoted from Deborah Moorhead's own notes on her baby's condition in Caleb's ironically titled Well Baby book: "No one home"; "Not so smiley"; "No smiles"; "Not wanting to be held even". These are the details that break your heart. It was a portrait of a little boy who had lost all hope. Caleb's parents put "uncompromising, dogmatic self-belief" before their baby, fumed the judge. It was, he said, quoting a witness for the prosecution, "so stupid". The prosecution asked for a sentence of three to five years in prison. Justice Harrison gave them five and it's hard to argue with that, although you can't help but wonder whether a psychiatric institution might be more to the point.

Seated beside me in the public gallery were Herman and Tilda Jongkind, friends of the Moorheads, who featured on TV One's Sunday programme about the case. They were in court themselves last year for failing to provide the necessaries of life when their toddler developed meningitis. They didn't like antibiotics. They were waiting for a sign from God. God took his time. They eventually took the poor little guy to hospital. After having pus drained from his brain, he survived. 
The Jongkinds told Sunday that they believed God sent the near-fatal complications to their son to teach them not to be so extreme. Herman said it was a "possibility" that the Moorheads made a mistake, but they thought they were doing the best for their child. Sigh.

Throughout the sentencing hearing, the Jongkinds seemed, at times, to be praying. You can only hope they were praying for Caleb and not for the Moorheads or other parents who see the needless suffering and/or death of their child as just another investment in their own personal and spiritual growth. 

At the sentencing hearing the Moorheads said nothing in their own defence and again expressed no remorse. It came as little surprise to hear that Deborah Moorhead is nearly six months pregnant with the couple's next little hostage to spiritual purity. All, no doubt, to the greater glory of her cruel and primitive god.

Copyright ©2013, APN Holdings NZ Limited

Last edited by Hythlodaeus (11/06/2013 2:11 pm)


11/06/2013 2:10 pm  #2

Re: New Zealand

Parents awaited sign from God before seeking help

The parents of a child with potentially fatal meningococcal disease waited for what they believed was a sign from God before seeking medical help, a jury heard yesterday.

Herman and Trijntje Jongkind, both 34, are on trial in the Whangarei District Court charged with neglecting to provide the necessaries of life to their 17-month-old son, Jesse, between May 19 and June 12 last year, so that his life was endangered. Herman Jongkind told the court that he and his wife had cared for their sick child at home because, after years of organic farming, they opposed the use of antibiotics and believed in strengthening the immune system. The belief was also part of their faith.
He said they knew Jesse was probably suffering from meningitis, and brought church friends to pray for the boy. He appeared to improve but then worsened. They decided to seek help for Jesse after taking as a sign a Bible reading and a discussion his wife had had with a school principal, who told her to keep their older children at home for risk of infecting others.

Evidence was heard on Wednesday of how Jesse was taken to hospital when a doctor gave his mother an ultimatum during a telephone call, having identified his symptoms as those of meningococcal meningitis. He was so dehydrated that doctors had to replace two-thirds of his body fluids before he could be taken from Whangarei Hospital to the Starship hospital in Auckland. Jesse was in a moderately deep coma and at risk of being put on a ventilator. He had emergency surgery to drain fluid from his brain, as he had developed the potentially fatal complication of hydrocephalus, and was so ill he had to be tube-fed until his discharge to Whangarei on July 7.

Cross-examined yesterday by prosecutor Kim Thomas, Trijntje Jongkind said that she knew meningitis was potentially fatal but denied her son's life was threatened. She had thought she and her husband were doing the safest thing for Jesse. "We believed that if we needed to change our approach, God would show us, and he did."
Asked by Mr Thomas if they had considered helping God by taking Jesse to hospital earlier, Trijntje Jongkind replied: "He doesn't need help."

Malcolm Bollen, from Te Aroha Noa Medical Centre, told of a phone call from Trijntje Jongkind on June 12. He said he was taken aback by the conversation as the baby's symptoms were typical of meningococcal meningitis - a high- pitched cry, spotty rash and periods of unconsciousness. He told her if she did not take Jesse to hospital immediately, he would call the authorities.

The trial is before Judge Michael Lance.

Copyright ©2013, APN Holdings NZ Limited

     Thread Starter

11/06/2013 2:17 pm  #3

Re: New Zealand

Herman’s life really blooming

Herman Jongkind of Ruatangata is happy to call himself a breeder. He and wife Tilda have just had their 13th child – a girl called Lydia.
But Herman is also a successful breeder of the tropical plant heliconia. He is believed to be the first in the world to commercially grow new varieties of the plant and has just been granted plant variety rights for his Pacific Fire and Pacific Rainbow.
The grants from the Economic Development Ministry mean he is the only person in New Zealand allowed to propagate and sell the breeds commercially – like a plant patent. He plans to apply for grants in Europe so he can receive a royalty for every flower sold.

Originally from Holland, Herman’s father started growing heliconia when he was young. Heliconia are grown in greenhouses for their decorative flowers. Herman’s varieties are much smaller than the six-metre high standard varieties and are much more productive, he says. After successfully growing heliconias in Holland, the Jongkinds decided to move the operation to New Zealand 12 years ago.

"We had six children in Holland which is quite a lot for a very crowded place and we didn’t want to stop there," says Herman.

But their five-hectare block in Ruatangata has enough room for the greenhouse and a large house, with 11 children still living at home. The Jongkinds’ two oldest daughters, who are now married, are expecting babies on the same day in March. Herman says his own wife has a huge heart for children.

"For us, it’s a way of life. We’re Christians, for us it’s a way of honouring the Creator."

Herman says the children’s different genes have been fascinating, including three with their hearts on the right instead of the left, a congenital condition known as dextrocardia. Herman says, like his plants, the Jongkinds chose to grow their children "organically" – and that meant not following mainstream medicine.
But that changed when their son Jesse developed life-threatening meningococcal meningitis in 2000.
They were convicted and discharged with neglect for failing to get medical attention earlier. Herman says while Jesse has fully recovered and is the top of his class, the couple now know to seek medical treatment. One daughter is even studying to become a doctor, he says. 
Despite his love for children and success in plant breeding, Herman says he would never get rid of his greenhouse.

"I couldn’t live without it. For me it’s quite refreshing. I’ve got a massive family, that’s my thing, but you need a place of rest."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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