Oregon Sheriff’s Office investigating death of teen involved in faith healing church

The Sheriff’s Office in Lane County, Oregon, is investigating the death of a 16-year-old boy whose cause of death is unknown and whose family apparently belongs to a church that believes illnesses and injuries should be treated with prayer rather than medical care.

Jeff Wright at The Register-Guard reports

Austin Lewis Sprout, a junior at Creswell High School and a member of the school’s basketball team, died Tuesday of unknown causes pending an autopsy, the family said in an obituary notice faxed to The Register-Guard on Thursday.

A graveside service is planned for next Tuesday at the Creswell Pioneer Cemetery, followed by a dinner at the General Assembly and the Church of the First Born, according to the obituary.

The General Assembly and the Church of the First Born has a long history of controversial deaths related to healing by prayer … […]

The General Assembly and the Church of the First Born lists a Springfield congregation with a Eugene address and a congregation in Monroe in Linn County, according to various websites.

None of Sprout’s immediate family members listed in the obituary could be reached for comment late Thursday.

A distant family member who lives out of state and spoke on the condition of anonymity said he is not a member of the church but is familiar with its “faith healing” practices. He said there are rare instances when church-believing family members will use dentists. […]

Lane County sheriff’s Sgt. Billy Halvorson confirmed Thursday night that Sprout’s death is under investigation.

“We investigate deaths, especially when they’re involving children,” he said.

Local TV station KEZI spoke to Don and Emily Russell, former neighbors of Cleone and Jack Cagle, a couple who built the church

While the Russells don’t know the Sprouts, they did know that members of the church don’t agree with treating illness by going to a doctor.
 
“We’ve known of more than this case. A young man who had children at Goshen school went to this church and he died of pneumonia, and he didn’t go to the doctor, but that was his own choice.” the Russells said.
 
Emily says she respects their faith choices and can only imagine the family was doing what they thought was best.
 
“I think they thought they we’re doing the best they could for him, because they think that the Lord’s going to step in and take care of it,” the Russells said.
 
Similar cases like Austin Sprout’s happened in Portland recently and the court ruled faith healing is no longer an acceptable defense in trials like the Sprouts could be facing.
 
As of right now, this is just a preliminary investigation, but the Lane County District Attorney will make the final decision whether to file criminal charges against the family.

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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2016