Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Seventh-Day Adventists cry foul after Calgary child’s death linked to religious diet

9:16 am, December 15th, 2014

Credits: FOTOLIA


CALGARY - The "strict dietary regimen" police allege led to the death of a child is not a tenet of the faith the child's parents claimed to follow, the minister of Calgary's largest Seventh-Day Adventist congregation said.

Randy Barber, pastor of the Calgary Central Seventh-Day Adventist Church, says while the religion makes diet and health a priority, members are taught to live a healthy lifestyle, rather than enforce strict dietary doctrine.

"That certainly does not include being vegan," he said. "We teach that if a person chooses to eat meat, that they should eat clean meats and make sure they get a well-balanced diet."

"That's pretty much where we leave it," he added.

Police allege the 2013 deadly staph infection that claimed the life of 14-month-old John Clark was exacerbated by an extreme vegan diet administered by his parents, Jeromie Clark, 34, and his wife Jennifer, 38, both of whom proclaim to be Seventh-Day Adventists.

Adventism, a Protestant denomination of Christianity, teaches that health and diet are a part of a person's overall spiritual well-being.

More than 60% of adherents are vegetarian, which Barber says is a personal choice among church members.

Barber, who baptised Jeromie into Adventism in 2002, described the man as a paranoid isolationist with unorthodox views.

"I very soon began to realize that he was very radical in this thinking," he said. "He was more like a survivalist in his thinking."

Barber recalled an incident at Clark's baptism when a church member attempted to take a photo of the ceremony.

"He got violently angry," he said. "He would not allow a picture to be taken because he said the government would get a hold of it."

Jeromie was a common sight at Saturday church services until his marriage to Jennifer, a popular schoolteacher, nine years ago.

"After they got married, he got her to quit her job and they disappeared off the face of the Earth," Barber said.

"We didn't know where they went, they hadn't attended church - they isolated themselves completely."

Barber wasn't even aware the couple had children until news of the Clark's arrest earlier this week.

This is the first time he's seen a situation like this in Barber's 35 years in the ministry.

"That's not to say I haven't had church members in the past that I thought were unhealthy or were not following good health practices," he said.

"You'll find those kind of people in every organization - religious or not, there are radical people in every movement."

His faith, he says, teaches a holistic approach to health and guides its members towards making sensible choices - evidenced in numerous secular studies lauding the health of Seventh-Day Adventists.

"We instruct, and we leave it between them and God," he said.


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