As her lung cancer spread, shortening her breath, pressing into her back, Minna Shakespeare had faith that a thick, brown liquid she bought by mail from a California physician for $13,536 would cure her.
Her husband says Mrs. Shakespeare, a registered nurse and devout Christian in Cambridge, Mass., stopped chemotherapy on the doctor's advice. Easton Shakespeare recalls his wife assuring him that the doctor, who prayed with her over the phone, was trustworthy.
Mrs. Shakespeare died in April 2003, four months after her first dose of the viscous liquid. Her husband's complaints triggered a federal investigation of Christine Daniel, a licensed physician and Pentecostal minister practicing in Mission Hills, Calif. Investigators say she used religion to sell expensive nostrums that she claimed could cure cancer.
Dr. Daniel's small business is part of a boom in "Christian wellness" -- dietary supplements and herbal formulas, sometimes along with diets inspired by Biblical descriptions, that sell briskly in a lightly regulated industry. Sales by religiously affiliated companies have surged since the mid-1990s to account for 5% to 10% of the dietary-supplements business, which had about $21 billion in 2005 sales, says Grant Ferrier, editor of Nutrition Business Journal in San Diego.
The products are heavily promoted on religious TV, radio and Web sites through ads featuring testimonials akin to those that evangelicals share in church services. "Rather than sending money to the guy on TV who promised to heal you, you now can send your money for a book on diet and a list of supplements," says Donal O'Mathuna, a chemist and co-author of a book on alternative medicine.
Federal authorities have identified at least three dozen people who drank Dr. Daniel's mixtures, says a person familiar with the matter. Among those, at least eight people died of cancer, according to a Food and Drug Administration investigator's affidavit. Some patients bypassed conventional therapies for Dr. Daniel's regimen, according to the affidavit, patients and family members.
Snake oil from lying tricksters. Bigotry from closet gropers. Pro-death policies from "pro-life" mouthpieces.
It is time for Christians to shut the fuck up. If you want to pray, do so silently. You are collectively too stupid to deserve a political effect on others' lives, so we nonbelievers will respect you only to the degree that you respect us.
If only we had a rational electorate and an honest president who got blow jobs instead of coded messages from the beyond, telling him to steal everything in the US Treasury for his brethren.