Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in suburban Philadelphia. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory (Yale University Press).In 1907 Mark Twain published a scathing attack on Christian Science, which held that all illness lay in the mind. In his trademark satirical style, Twain congratulated the religion for providing “life-long immunity from imagination-manufactured disease.”The other kinds of disease were real, Twain insisted, and their victims required medicine – not prayer – to get better. But Twain also condemned the growing movement to prosecute faith healers and parents for withholding medical care from children who died.A century later, we know much more about what makes people sick and well. As Twain understood, though, we still need to balance the protection of children with the religious liberty of their parents. And that’s why we should retain narrowly crafted laws exempting parents from child-abuse charges if they resist medical care for religious reasons....
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory (Yale University Press).Will raising the minimum wage put more money in the pockets of America’s working poor? Or will it have the opposite effect, throwing more poor people out of work?That’s the question we ask whenever anyone proposes a hike in the minimum wage, as President Obama did in his State of the Union Address. But it’s also the wrong question, diverting us from the biggest one of all: what are the rights that we share as human beings?Minimum-wage opponents say we all have the right to pursue our own happiness—and to maximize our self-interest—so long as we respect others’ right to do the same. Proponents counter that everyone has a right to certain necessities of life—food, clothing, and shelter—and that no one can be happy if some of us are deprived.And the proponents have Pope Benedict XVI on their side....