Alabame lab lost key evidence in faith healing case

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When Kay Burdette’s 17-year-old son became sick with flu-like symptoms, she chose the same prescription she has used for years: prayer.

This time, though, her son Jesse did not recover and Burdette was charged with manslaughter, the Associated Press reports:

She pleaded guilty to lesser charges and avoided prison, in part because authorities lost a tissue sample that was crucial to proving that her son died of bacterial pneumonia, which is treatable, rather than viral pneumonia, which generally isn’t.

Pale, coughing and weighing only 130 pounds at the end, Jesse died in his mother’s bed the night of March 19, 2008. His mom called a friend from their charismatic, non-denominational church, then her daughter. She never called 911 nor sought medical assistance.

“Because of my religious beliefs I trust in God to forgive my sins and for physical healing,” she told investigators. “We’re not discouraged … from seeking medical help, but I chose to totally trust God for Jesse’s healing. Jesse and I both prayed for his healing.” […]

Prosecutors initially decided to seek a felony charge that carried a sentence of two to 20 years in prison. Then, Dr. Stephen Boudreau, a medical examiner in the case, informed a prosecutor that the state laboratory couldn’t find the tissue sample, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. […]

“My reason for not giving my son medical treatment was because of his and my conviction of trusting God for healing,” Burdette wrote to the judge. […]

David Burdette said before Jesse was born, he and his wife visited Sandhill Bible Church, located in the country a few miles from Auburn University. The church seemed fine at first, but he left after about a year because the pastor was too controlling and the members too self-righteous, he said.

The church taught that members should rely solely on prayers, not medicine, for healing, he said, but Kay Burdette and other church members denied that claim to investigators.

David Burdette described himself as a Christian and said he has no doubt that God miraculously heals people.

“I’ve seen it happen. But God also uses the medical community for healing,” he said.

David Burdette grew distant from his family, divorcing his wife in 2000. He learned of Jesse’s death only after Kay Burdette’s mother called his mother with the news.

Faith Healing

The term ‘faith healing’ refers to healing that occurs supernaturally — as the result of prayer rather than the use of medicines or the involvement of physicians or other medical care.

But while faith healings do take place today just as they did in the early Christian church, the teachings of some churches, movements and individuals on this subject amount to spiritual abuse.

Legitimate churches and movements do not equal using drugs or receiving proper medical attention with unbelief, insufficient faith, or otherwise sinning against God.

Research resources on faith healing

Sandhill Bible Church

According to its website,

Sandhill Bible Church is a non-denominational church seeking to uphold Biblical standards and practices. We are desiring to walk in the old paths of holiness, modesty, faith, divine healing, the pentecostal experience, and readiness for Christ’s return
– Text cited from the source code

The church describes itself as follows:

We like to think of ourselves as a Bible church, not as a mere religious monicker, but as a description of what we earnestly seek to be. Members have been drawn here by the Holy Spirit from various walks of life and different parts of the country.

Since its doctrinal position adheres to such truths as nonresistance, nonparticipation in the military, and an apolitical outlook concerning Christian social involvement, the church’s overall contour in many respects resembles conservative Anabaptist churches. On the other hand, elements of the pentecostal revival may also be found in the assembly, such as the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Because the church seeks to fit no pre-existing, man-made, denominational mold, it seemingly defies description in terms of mainline religious classifications.

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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2016