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God and the candidate for coroner in York County, Pennsylvania

If you’ve been reading my blogging material for a while, you probably know two things. One, I am a Christian and I make no apologies for it. Two, I am a scientist and will always, always, always go with the evidence on science, medicine, public health, whatever. It is not enough to see a plague happening and just chalk it up to an act of God (or an act of Satan). In fact, it is downright sinful to not use the brains we have and the knowledge we’ve gained through the scientific process to get at those plagues — whatever those plagues may be.

In essence, we need science to solve our problems, more so than religion. Religion and those who practice it get in the way of progress a lot of the times, and it annoys me. It annoys me even more when political candidates don’t talk about the issues and instead go to religion to try and get elected. We get it. You’re religious, now how are you going to fix the problem?

So my jaw dropped today when I read the stances and bios of the two candidates for coroner in York County, Pennsylvania. I live one county over, but I do a lot of stuff in York County. Imagine my surprise when I read that the Democratic candidate wanted to be coroner because God called her to it. Imagine my horror when I read her qualifications:

“Strausbaugh, of York Township, said she felt strongly that God was guiding her to run for coroner. “It’s something I felt the Lord wanted me to do for a long time and I didn’t do it,” Strausbaugh said. She had ignored the feelings until she recently retired. While on a road trip, she said, she knew she didn’t have peace about the situation. “I didn’t know at the time that no one else was planning to run as a Democrat,” Strausbaugh said of the primary. “It’s just the Lord’s timing knowing that no one else was planning to run. I feel like a present-day Jonah.””


“Strausbaugh has worked as an EMT in Jacobus. She also worked as a secretary at York Hospital and at Children’s Home of York. Strausbaugh also spent about two years working as a medical abstractor for a small government contractor. She graduated from Northeastern High School in 1968 and has continued her education through adult classes on medical terminology and other subjects. “I believe that God’s gifts are for today,” Strausbaugh said. “When Jesus walked the Earth he healed the sick and raised the dead and I believe God can work miraculously and that’s probably part of it.” Strausbaugh said she doesn’t believe car accidents or death in sickness are works of God, but works of evil, she said.”

Ladies and gentlemen of York County, this is who wants to investigate deaths in your county. Not someone who thinks that things happen because of a complex set of reasons but because of works of evil. It wasn’t the bad driver or the severe pneumonia, it was a work of evil. I can’t even wrap my head around that, and I’m a Lutheran!

What about her plans if she wins? (“Bloss” is the current and retiring coroner, by the way.)

“”I think the coroner’s office is already involved in a lot of different things,” Strausbaugh said. She has attended some of the suicide prevention meetings led by Bloss. “I learned a lot at that meeting,” Strausbaugh said. “I had never attended anything like that before.” One of her biggest concerns are mental health initiatives. Her brother, was has been institutionalized since he was 6, has given her some background on the topic. “I do not own a gun and I respect people’s desires to own a gun, but I feel that background checks should be more strict,” she said. “Assault-type weapons do not belong on our streets.””

Oh, well, she won’t get elected on that whole gun thing alone.

But let’s look at her opponent, the Republican in all this:

“Gay has worked 12 years as a forensic nurse at York Hospital, working to gather evidence from victims of abuse. The position also has allowed her to learn how to work with the York County District Attorney’s Office, as well as with local police. “Some of those things cross over into what the coroner does,” Gay said. Gay has worked in her own business as a legal nurse, reviewing charts and medical records to summarize them for legal briefs. She has often worked as a “sort of middle person” between the attorney and physician, she said.”

And her plans…

“Gay said she hopes to bring some additional technology to the York County Coroner’s office, such as a website for healthy and safety information and enhanced death investigation software so there’s more detail available in those types of cases. “I really want to get out into the community more,” Gay said. “I want to educate and emphasize suicide prevention, and abuse — violent crimes that lead to tragic things in the community.” Gay also hopes to create compassion-and-care teams, for which community volunteers would be trained to go with the deputy coroners on death notifications. The volunteers would stay with the families to help with funeral arrangements and counseling resources. The office would follow up with those families in the weeks and months after the death. “I’ve had a huge amount of community response for that,” she said.””

I think Jesus put it best with that whole “render unto Caesar” thing that there should be a separation between religion and political things. And to be running for coroner of all things!


Featured image credit: gwen / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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6 replies

  1. So, God told one candidate to run for an office that she is utterly unqualified for and she intends to make a difference with assault-type weapons on the streets (something already illegal, but unbelievably far away from the duties of a coroner)?

    The other wants to send volunteers about on death notifications.
    Funny, as many agencies do have such a thing. The position is called chaplain. That candidate also wants to have community outreach on abuse, violent crimes, suicide prevention and heaven knows what else that is also not part of the coroner’s duties?

    Have either of the idiots running for that office even *read* the job description, legal duties, requirements and what the budget is for their mythical notional plans?
    Not to mention that informing mom and dad that Johnny died has a host of privacy issues that having volunteers about to later gossip opens up a massive door to litigation issues.

    But then, it’s about what I learned to expect from York county.
    A place where, get up into the hills, a majority of the population literally has the last name and common family tree.


    1. It’s largely based off of old inherited UK Common Law.
      Liberally stolen from Wikipedia:
      “In Middle English, the word “coroner” referred to an officer of the crown, derived from the French couronne and Latin corona, meaning “crown”.”
      The inherited UK Common Law dates back to quite literally 1776. Back then, a physician was far from the scientific, evidence based practice physician we have today, it was an apprenticeship learned trade, with loads of barber surgeon days methods, loads of botanical based cured as well as some brilliant treatments, such as sweating disease out, bleeding a disease out, humoural theory of disease, etc.
      Hence, it was an appointed position that required no real scientific background, as all the coroner did back then was certify death and its cause.
      That is why the position of Medical Examiner was created. However, some areas do not have such incorporated into their legal code.

      Wikipedia has a nice article on it:

      For those not from the US, it comes down to what legislation is at the state or even county level, as there is no federal authority within the US Constitution to mandate either a medical examiner or a coroner or the training and requirements for said office.
      The reason for that is a quite long lesson in US Constitutional history.


  2. Good grief. Neither candidate is qualified…but that’s what happens when you live in a jurisdiction where elected “Coroners”…not Medical Examiners…are responsible for investigating the causes of deaths/circumstances surrounding deaths.

    Those jurisdictions are open invitations to get away with murder. Pathetic.


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