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Another faith-healing death of a child puts Oregon City pare


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I wish god would take care of this church. i think it is stuff like this that really makes me think if there is a god he/she could give a fuck.

Steve Mayes, The Oregonian

Published: Sep 11, 2011 10:49 AM

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OREGON CITY – When the trial of Dale and Shannon Hickman begins this week in Clackamas County, the curtain again rises on a familiar tragedy, one centered on the death of a child and on parents whose unwavering faith in divine healing may lead them to prison.

The Hickmans are members of the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City faith-healing church. The congregation has a long history of children dying from curable conditions because parents rejected medical care in favor of spiritual treatments.

The Hickmans are charged with second-degree manslaughter.

They are fourth couple prosecuted in the past two years by the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office for failing to seek adequate medical care for a child. In the previous cases, all but one defendant was convicted and sentenced to jail or prison.

The trial over David Hickman's death could last five weeks. Many days will be filled with testimony from medical experts and discussions of prenatal care, midwifery practices and the impact of a bacterial infection on a fetus. As in past Followers cases, religious freedom, parental rights and the government's responsibility to protect children will find their way into the fray.

Court documents, pre-trial hearings and questions asked in jury selection give a sense of the arguments each side may offer.

Previous coverage

» The Hickman case

» The Followers of Christ

The jury must consider a couple of key questions: Did the Hickmans fail to recognize that David faced a substantial and unjustifiable risk that could result in serious harm or death? And did they respond to that risk as a reasonable person would. Simply put, did the Hickmans adhere to community standards of care for a medically fragile newborn.

Baby lived 9 hours

In previous Followers cases, the children's medical conditions developed over days, months or years. Jurors in those cases concluded there were obvious warning signs that parents willfully ignored.

This time, death came quickly.

The baby, David Hickman was born two months prematurely. He weighed 3 pounds, 5 ounces. His lungs were underdeveloped, and he lived nine hours. The Hickmans say David appeared healthy then took a sudden dire turn. His skin became gray and his breathing labored.

The birth was attended by female church members who are considered midwives but it is unclear whether they have any medical education.

An autopsy found that the baby died of a bacterial infection of his feeble lungs.

The defense presented their view of the case in pre-trial hearings and documents: Dale Hickman held his newborn son, prayed and anointed him with oil, and the boy died minutes later. Even if the Hickmans had gone to a hospital or called an ambulance the tiny baby would have died before help arrived.

Prosecutors will contend that the Hickmans failed their son and caused his death because of their faith-based aversion to doctors and mainstream medical care. They will argue that the boy's fate was sealed before his conception. They note that Shannon Hickman had a miscarriage a year before David was born and that she did not seek prenatal care when she learned she was pregnant again.

The Hickmans have never been to a doctor, prosecutors said, and they never considered calling for help.

"At the time the baby took his first breath," the Hickmans had an absolute obligation to provide adequate care, deputy district attorney Mike Regan said in a pre-trial hearing.

Religious freedom

Defense attorneys John Neidig and Mark Cogan will argue that the Hickmans did nothing wrong. David's death was unforseeable and almost instant.

The defense attorneys claim the Hickmans were singled out for prosecution because of their religious beliefs. They noted that the DA waited a year to file charges against the Hickmans, indicting them shortly after the arrest of Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, also members of the church.

The Wylands failed to take their infant daughter to a doctor for a grotestque growth that almost destroyed her left eye. They were convicted in June of criminal mistreatment and sentenced to 90 days in jail.

The back-to-back arrests of the two couples further inflamed public amimosity toward the church, the defense attorneys said.

Two days after the Wylands were convicted, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a law that removed the remnants of Oregon's legal protection for parents who rely solely on faith healing to meet their children's medical needs. The law, a direct response to the Followers of Christ cases, eliminates spiritual treatment as a defense against all homicide charges and subject parents to mandatory sentencing under Oregon's Measure 11.

The issues of religious and personal freedom will undoubtely surface throughout the Hickman trial.

Neidig put it succinctly during a pre-trial hearing last week. The government should not be allowed to intrude into "this sacred private sphere the family is entitled to."

-- Steve Mayes

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because of this one church laws were passed that people can't use faith healing as a reason not to treat their children. one frigging church gets a law passed because of their practices? how bad is that?

Followers of Christ

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about a particular church. For an article about the original followers of Christ, see Apostle (Christian).

The Followers of Christ is a Christian denomination based in the U.S. state of Oregon. The church has attracted controversy for its practices of faith healing and of shunning members who violate church doctrine, including those who seek medical care. According to authorities[who?] in Oregon and other places where church members are found, numerous children have suffered premature deaths from treatable causes due to their parents' refusal to seek medical care; a former Oregon state medical examiner claims the infant mortality rate within the Followers of Christ community is 26 times greater that of the general population.[1][2] Church members and others[who?] have argued that parents should have the right to select whatever methods of healing they deem appropriate for their children and that public policy, which requires use of conventional medicine over faith healing, constitutes a violation of freedom of religion.



1 History

2 Doctrines

3 Controversy

4 References

[edit] History

The Followers of Christ church was founded in Chanute, Kansas by Marion Reece (sometimes spelled Riess[3]), rooted in Holiness and Pentecostal traditions. The church moved to Ringwood, Oklahoma in the 1890s, where leadership passed to Elder Morris, who is the father of the current Oklahoma leader, Marion Morris.[3] During the 1920s, Charlie Smith (the founder's brother-in-law) and George White began missions in California and Idaho. George White's nephew Walter White became a minister in the church. Walter moved to Oregon City, Oregon in the 1940s, after a dispute with other ministers.[4][2][5] White and his congregation built a house of worship on Molalla Avenue in Oregon City, then a largely rural timber and farming community, now a suburb of Portland. He was a fiery speaker and maintained tight control over his congregation.[4] White died in 1969, and the church has functioned without a minister since that time.[6] The elders associated with White had also died by the early 1990s, and the leaderless Oregon community became more isolated and inward-focused, and ceased recruitment of new members.[2] Only children of existing followers are admitted to join their worship services. Members who were deemed too worldly were expelled and shunned, as were those who disagreed with their interpretation of scriptures.[4]

Estimates of the Oregon church's membership in 2008 ranged from 1,200[6] to 2,300.[7][8] The Followers of Christ also have congregations in Oklahoma, Idaho[4] and California,[9] and local communities operate independently of Followers of Christ churches in other areas.[4]

The Oregon City congregation owns a church building, as well as a cemetery in Carus, where deceased church members are routinely buried.[10]

[edit] Doctrines

The Followers of Christ is Pentecostal in orientation, and believes in a literal interpretation of Scripture, including in the power of faith healing. In the context of Pentecostal Christianity, the use of prayer and laying on of hands by church elders is believed able to cure illness.[9][5] Unlike many other churches which include faith healing as part of their doctrine such as Christian Science, most members of the Followers of Christ refuse all forms of medicine and professional medical care. The church practices shunning of those who violate or challenge church doctrine, including those who seek medical treatment; it has been alleged that many Followers clandestinely see doctors in defiance of church teaching.[6] The church relies on the Authorized Version of the Bible, and practices adult baptism by immersion, fasting and footwashing. Their view of salvation is predicated on repentance, followed by works in following Christ's commandments (time for which God is thought to allow following initial repentance).[3]

The church is also known for legalism[11][12] and a male-dominated society.[6] The members of the church frequently greet each other with kisses on the lips;[2] members of the church are often pejoratively referred to as "kissers" by others in Oregon City, and in other communities where large concentrations of Followers of Christ are found.[13] According to church members, children raised in the church attend public schools, but do not socialize outside the church once reaching middle-school age.[14]

[edit] Controversy

During the latter part of the twentieth century, the church began to attract attention from authorities in the state of Oregon due to an unusually high mortality rate among its children. Larry Lewman, a former medical examiner in the state, alleges that during a ten-year period twenty-five children perished due to the lack of medical intervention—a death rate 26 times higher than among the general population.[2] An investigation by The Oregonian claimed that at least 21 out of 78 minors found to be buried in the church cemetery died of preventable causes, including simple infections which would be easily treated with routine antibiotics. Of the 78 children examined, 38 had died within the first year following birth.[5][15] High death rates among children have also been noticed among Followers of Christ members in Idaho and Oklahoma.[4] The high death rate among church children attracted national media attention, including coverage of the church by Time magazine,[5] ABC News newsmagazine 20/20,[16] and the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.[17]

Prior to 1999, authorities in Oregon were largely powerless to combat these deaths. Like many states, Oregon has laws protecting parents who practice faith healing from prosecution. The laws in Oregon at the time were especially liberal in the protections granted to parents; granting immunity from manslaughter charges to parents whose children perished due to an alleged reliance on faith healing over traditional medicine.[5] The widespread immunity granted by the state was opposed by many in the medical community, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. The opposition was also supported by several former church members, including parents whose children had died from causes believed to be preventable; these parents have reported being ostracized from the church as a result of their advocacy.[5]

On the other side of the debate were other faith-healing churches and civil liberties groups, who argued that parents' freedom of religion was paramount, and outweighed the state's interest in protecting children from harm.[5] Christian Science, a religion which practices spiritual-healing,[18] also works with law-makers to ensure that every citizen is entitled to a choice in health care. In addition, many wished to ensure that the law differentiated between parents who acted in good faith, and parents who were genuinely abusive to their children.[19] The debate in Oregon mirrored other debates concerning faith healing which have occurred throughout the United States; many of which have eliminated religious immunity laws for homicide.[20]

In January 1999, a bill was introduced in the Oregon Legislature to repeal the "religious beliefs" defense to charges of manslaughter, homicide, and child abuse.[21] After much debate, a modified version of the law was subsequently passed later that year.

An Alberta, Canada couple who were members of a different church were successfully prosecuted by authorities when their child died under similar circumstances; the law there did not provide the same faith-healing exemptions that were found in Oregon.[22]

In March 2008, controversy was renewed when a 15-month old church toddler, Ava Worthington, died of pneumonia; the first known death to occur under circumstances potentially covered by the 1999 law. Authorities in Clackamas County, Oregon filed charges of manslaughter against the parents in the case.[7] Just three months later, on June 18, 2008, Ava's 16-year-old Uncle, Neil Beagley died from an easily treatable condition (a long-term bladder blockage that forced urea into the bloodstream).[23][24] In neither case did the families seek medical help. On July 23, 2009, the parents of Ava Worthington were acquitted of manslaughter charges in the death of their daughter, but the father was found guilty of one lesser charge which carries a potential sentence of a year in jail.[1][25] On February 2, 2010, by a 10–2 jury verdict in Clackamas County, the parents of Neil Beagley were found guilty of criminally negligent homicide, with sentencing scheduled for February 18, 2010.[26] Both were sentenced to 16 months in prison on March 8, 2010.[27]

In January 2011, HB2721 was introduced into the Oregon Legislature which would remove religious belief as an affirmative defense for homicide.[28] It passed March 3, 2011.[29] The measure was later signed into law June 9th, 2011.[30]

In June 2011, Timothy and Rebecca Wyland were convicted of first-degree criminal mistreatment and sentenced to 90 days in jail for using faith healing instead of seeking medical care for their infant daughter Aylana. During early infancy, Aylana developed a hemangioma that became so large that it engulfed her left eye, leaving her on the verge of blindness. She has since improved under court-ordered care. [31]


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I think Followers of Christ are worse than the WBC.

Since the Followers of Christ only hurt their own children, instead of terrorizing other people's kids as they try to bury their parent/sibling, I'm inclined to disagree. But think of the crossover potential! Next time a FOC child dies of medical neglect, the WBC could picket the funeral explaining that God killed the child because of gays that FOC don't know or accept. The theological debate would be hysterical. It could end up a shouting match, my prophet is crazier than yours and therefore more righteous!

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I don't see how being harassed at a funeral is more heinous than being denied medical care and allowed to die. Followers of Christ are way more evil than WBC. Actually, the WBC is way down there on my list of evil people I'd like to see struck by lightening. They are completely impotent- everyone hates them, no one follows their teachings (except for the handful of Phelps') and the church is bound to die out within 20 years of 'ol Freddy dying.

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The defense presented their view of the case in pre-trial hearings and documents: Dale Hickman held his newborn son, prayed and anointed him with oil, and the boy died minutes later. Even if the Hickmans had gone to a hospital or called an ambulance the tiny baby would have died before help arrived.

If the baby lived nine hours, I don't understand this defense. A baby that is two months premature is clearly going to need medical support at birth and they had nine hours to get him to a medical facility. . . if I'm understanding this right. The defense argument makes it sound like the baby was born, the dad held him and prayed and all that jazz, and the baby died a few minutes later. But earlier in the article it was stated that the baby lived nine hours. So which was it, I wonder?

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If the baby lived nine hours, I don't understand this defense. A baby that is two months premature is clearly going to need medical support at birth and they had nine hours to get him to a medical facility. . . if I'm understanding this right. The defense argument makes it sound like the baby was born, the dad held him and prayed and all that jazz, and the baby died a few minutes later. But earlier in the article it was stated that the baby lived nine hours. So which was it, I wonder?

They stated that the baby appeared healthy at birth. Which can't possibly be right either, since there was no MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL around. It's the defense coming out with this, what do you expect?

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They stated that the baby appeared healthy at birth. Which can't possibly be right either, since there was no MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL around. It's the defense coming out with this, what do you expect?

I expect that the defense will put on any defense that they think might get an acquittal for their clients. I guess I was just musing about how little sense their stated defense makes, if that's what they're going with.

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