Attleboro, Massachusetts, a city of 42,000 on the border with Rhode Island, is witnessing a troubling clash between the rights of parents and the responsibility of the state to protect children.

The parents of newborn Jeremiah Corneau and 11-month-old Samuel Robidoux are accused of allowing them to die. The two sets of parents say the boys died in accordance with God's will. State prosecutors charge that the parents, not God, are responsible. Samuel's parents, Jacques and Karen Robidoux, face a murder trial that starts this month.

Jeremiah's parents, Rebecca and David Corneau, have not been charged with a crime. The state has, however, taken their other four children into protective custody. In addition, a juvenile court judge in February ordered the Corneaus jailed for refusing to disclose the whereabouts of a baby officials believe was born in late 2001. The Corneaus say Rebecca had a miscarriage but refuse to disclose the location of the child's body. State officials suspect that the child is alive and being hidden by family members.

Both families belong to The Body, a small, insular sect whose members embrace faith healing and reject modern medicine. Members believe they receive direct revelations from God. Sect founders Roland Robidoux and Roger Daneau were members of an Attleboro Bible study that evolved into a group of about 20 adult members at its peak in the 1980s. Most members come from their two families. Daneau, 62, was found dead March 7 of an apparent heart attack at the sect's communal home.

The case has raised important legal questions about state intervention in the lives of fervently religious families. Constitutional scholar Stephen L. Carter of Yale Law School believes that while parents should have wide ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Tags:
From Issue:
Read These Next
Also in this Issue
Southwestern's Predicament Subscriber Access Only
Can the biggest Protestant seminary in the world be both Southern Baptist and broadly evangelical?
TrendingWho’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?
Who’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?
The age of the Internet has birthed a crisis of authority, especially for women.
Editor's PickTogether for the Gospels
Together for the Gospels: Unprecedented Unity Among Bible Translators Transforms Giving
Lessons learned from illumiNations initiative could help other causes.
Christianity Today
Parents' Rights: Fatal Revelations
hide thisMay 21 May 21

In the Magazine

May 21, 2002

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.