In an an age of clickbait, I appreciate the Kansas City Star's serious, straightforward treatment of a Kansas family's objections to immunizing a child.
Yes, there's a strong religion angle to this developing story.
"Report what you know" is an old journalistic adage: The Star does a nice job of that in a news report that meticulously explains a federal lawsuit filed by the family of a 2-year-old boy.
Let's start at the top:
The 2-year-old grandson of Linus and Terri Baker has never been vaccinated.
His mother and the Bakers oppose immunization on religious and health grounds.
But now that the boy is in temporary state custody, the Kansas Department for Children and Families intends to vaccinate him despite the family’s wishes.
The Bakers, who have physical custody of the boy as his foster parents, say it’s an unconstitutional overreach and they are now fighting it in federal court.
The grandparents are particularly galled that DCF appears to be requiring people who want to exempt their children from daycare and school vaccination requirements to cite their denomination and its specific teaching opposed to immunization.
“They’ve become the religious police,” said Linus Baker, a lawyer who lives in southern Johnson County.
Given that statement, it's probably not a surprise that the family's specific religious beliefs come across as relatively vague in this story.
The Star does report:
According to the lawsuit, the Bakers’ grandson was born with a heart condition, which required surgery when he was six months old. He is now very healthy, but they don’t know how different vaccines could affect his health.
Terri Baker has also “long been of the Christian faith,” the suit says.
“Part of that faith is having an understanding about vaccines and the risks they pose for children,” according to the suit. “Terri has religious convictions and objections to vaccines using cell lines from tissue harvested from abortions.”
To its credit, the newspaper sticks to the family's specific arguments and gives the Kansas Department for Children and Families an opportunity to respond (a spokeswoman declines).
What's missing? The story itself seems pretty complete, especially for a daily news account.
Going forward, what would I like to see? I'd welcome a story using this case as the peg for a deeper account of the immunization issue, the most common religious objections to vaccines and where various faith groups stand.
Of course, a problem in reporting such a story could be one that my fellow GetReligionista, Mark A. Kellner, identified in a 2015 report for the Deseret News:
In the national debate over immunizing children, much has been said about "religious objections" to vaccines claimed by parents. Finding a religion whose tenets object to the practice, however, is difficult.
Home page image via Pixabay.com