February 12, 1997
In the reviewing the case of Planck v. Indiana, many complicated issues arise. Included in those, individual rights conflicting with the public good are among the most difficult. According to Mr and Mrs. Planck's attorney, John Price, the Planck's religious beliefs prohibit them from accepting professional medicine practice, as they practice alternative medicine and home school their children. After a complaint from an older Planck daughter, who did not embrace or respect her family's lifestyle, the state was called in to investigate the health of the Planck children. In a preliminary check by the state of Indiana for eyesight, Lance Planck was found not to be in need of any service. Despite this finding, the Madison County Superior Court ordered that all of the Planck's children's eyes be examined by the state. One month after the Court ordered this, twenty armed officers with guns drawn came to the Planck's residence and commanded Mr. and Mrs. Planck to give up their children. Mr. Planck told the officers that he did not know why they were there, was pushed to the ground and had loaded rifles pointed at him. The children were then forcibly removed from their parents custody, and at no time was any identification shown by the officers. Curt, Lance Planck's younger brother, resisted this removal from his house, and was threatened by an officer that he would be "dragged out of here." After this scene, Emily, Stephen, and Curtis Planck were loaded into a van and driven to an eye doctor in Anderson, Indiana. The examining doctor, Dr. Joseph Woschitz, came to the conclusion that no treatment was needed for any of the children. How can the state justify this type of behavior? Is ripping a child unwillingly from his mother's arms in the best interest of the public good? What does society have to benefit from this? In short, this does not affect the public good per se, but does affect the Plancks and any other family that practices a religion that is not widely accepted.
Following the above events, Mr. and Mrs. Planck were subsequently arrested, had their First Amendment rights violated, and had their home invaded by armed SWAT team members who fired a CS tear gas canister into their house. Simply, Mr. and Mrs. Planck and their children were targeted by the state selectively because of their religious beliefs which they manifested in home education and the practice of alternative medicine. The fundamental argument here is that the Planck's rights have been violated, and the State of Indiana has overstepped its duty of caring for the Planck's children.
Thomas Jefferson described our fundamental rights as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," however, the Planck's exercise of these rights have been violated by the State of Indiana. The Plancks seem to have been happy before this fiasco started, but since they state has interfered and then raided their house with tear gas and pointed a rifle at Mr. Planck, that happiness has seem to been withdrawn.
The State of Indiana should have the right to look after the children's health in an emergency, but it needs to be done in a reasonable way that still respects the Planck's religious beliefs. On the other hand, it is imperative that the state does not infringe upon the individual's beliefs by intervening for the sake of the public good. Where is the line that says the family has exceeded its rights, or that the state has exceeded theirs? There is no line, and that is why this argument is so difficult.
While the state is responsible for a child's health, education and welfare, why do we not see the state swarm into a house with a SWAT team that home-schools their children? If those children do not learn as much as their counterparts in public schools, is the state justified in ripping them out of home-school and pushing them into a public school? In a sense, this is what has happened in the Planck case, however, the end result was the unfortunate death of their son Lance.
The other side of this argument, that the state is justified in taking the Planck's children, is also difficult to argue because of the effect it has on the public good. The outcome of this court case will have repercussions that will echo to groups, religious and otherwise, that the line between individual rights and state responsibilities has been redrawn. The State of Indiana's duty and responsibility is to make sure the welfare, health, and education of its children is satisfactory. But in doing so, especially in this case, it is problematic to assume that the Plancks should not be treating their own kids with alternative medicine. Since no parent would want their own child to die, the state has stepped in to serve as the care giver to Lance Planck. But when Mr. and Mrs. Planck decline this care, should the state defy the parent's right to decide what is best for their child, or should it comply with the parents wishes of letting Lance continue untreated? The Planck's religion instructs them that professional medical treatment should not be accepted, and that any sickness that affects them should be treated by the family, at home. This involved the public good because while the majority of parents would allow medical treatment to their children, there is still a small percentage that does not want it. As a state, and for the public good, we must respect their beliefs--within reason--so that their rights as Americans, especially the First Amendment, are not violated. Since the Planck's religion is such that medical care should not be accepted, when the state steps in to assist Lance, they are inadvertently violating the Planck's First Amendment rights. Since this case is still pending in the courts, it will be interesting to see the outcome of its decision and its effects on us as Americans, and as individuals.
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