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Readers Respond to the Trial

Both press and prosecution need deep, conscientious review of their motives and practices in the area of free exercise of religion. When the rare failures of Christian Science healing become news, and the consistent long record of healing of serious illness in children and adults is not reported, public opinion may rule out what it surely needs - a means of saving children for whom medicine has no answers. When medicine has a perfect record, then medical practitioners might be justified in joining with prosecution teams in attempting to remove spiritual healing.

There's a strong hint of medical self-interest in the air, not to mention the ancient tradition of throwing to the lions those with whom one differs on matters of faith. Linda Shaver, Brookline, Mass.

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By cowing to the judge's deceiving instructions, the jurors' decision literally condemned the parents for relying on religion.

One doesn't need to be a member of the Christian Science church to realize that, while the case may or may not have been a direct attack against this particular church, it definitely was a purposeful attack against religion. Paul Everett, San Diego, Calif.

I disagree with the premise that prayer itself was being prosecuted in the now-decided Boston case.

The right of the couple to pray for their child's recovery was not at all in question. The couple was charged instead with withholding an additional form of treatment that likely would have saved the life of their child.

The prosecution does not fault the couple for having faith in prayer; it faults them for failing to take full advantage of the life-saving options available. E. Clopton, Coralville, Iowa

Is spiritual healing possible and is it at least as dependable as material methods?

The answer to this question can be supplied only by people who have been healed or whose children have been healed by spiritual means. There are thousands of people in the world who could write to newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations and let them know about their healings through prayer.

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The people who have read or heard about these cases should hear the other side of the story. Charles Wenne, Lexington, Mo.

In spite of a record of physical healing that is well-known, amply documented, and easy to substantiate, the efficacy of Christian Science healing has been in question in a recent court case. And strangely, unaccountably, evidence or documentation supporting this healing was suppressed in that court. The suppression of this information precluded the possibility of a fair trial.

The judge either acted irresponsibly or had another agenda, one of coercion. That agenda would appear to be the suppression of freedom to exercise religious beliefs and the prescription of medical or surgical treatment. At stake are choice of religion and form of health care. Jorie Blair Long, Ithaca, N.Y.

The recent inflated publicity and media hype charging Christian Scientist parents with child abuse and neglect arises from a total of seven juvenile deaths nationwide since 1983. During this same period, over 50,000 children have died in each of these years under medical care.

Looking at this comparative record dispassionately, it seems absurd that seven families should be held accountable for 100 percent success. Methods of the majority are absolved with substantially lower success rate.

With such low frequency of failure and lack of a 100 percent certain alternative, this cannot represent a sincere concern for the rights and health of children. Public resources could be better spent to prevent large numbers of children born addicted to cocaine or dying of AIDS from pre-natal parental indulgence. Or it could be used to prevent physical abuse after birth.

Present prosecution doesn't bode well for other misinterpreted minority practices. David W. Allen, Tryon, N.C.

I protest the entanglement of the judicial process by the judge and the prosecutor in the internal religious affairs of an established church, specifically as it concerns the recognized and verifiable healing practice of its adherents, permitted under state law in Massachusetts and other states.

This entanglement, culminating in a verdict against the Twitchells, is coupled with Judge Sandra Hamlin's order to the defendants to take their three children to a doctor whenever any of them is seriously ill and to have regular medical checkups. This is clearly against their religion and therefore against their church, constituting a breach of the wall of separation of church and state. Charles Rasoli, Long Island City, N.Y.

At a time when groups claiming the right of religious freedom to use drugs for religious practices or traditions are being accused of abusing this right, it seems ludicrous that Christian Scientists are being condemned for not wanting to use drugs! Religion on all fronts is clearly under attack. Sara A. Prout, Wellesley, Mass., Wellesley College '90

It is incredible that American citizens are being prosecuted for praying for their children's health in this country where our forefathers came for freedom of religion.

Judge Hamlin found herself in a position to change the freedoms of this country where prayers alone have brought down walls, saved communities from threatening situations, and restored health to countless numbers of testifiers. This case brought before a jury shows how our justice system has deteriorated with time and unqualified and prejudiced judges. Mrs. Kenneth Hellyer, Mill Creek, Wash.

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