Faith-healing couple’s 6 kids in temporary state custody

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ReligionNewsBlog.com — Six children of an Oregon couple arrested in the faith-healing death of their 16-year-old son have been placed in temporary state custody.

The Register-Guard reports the arrangement is part of a plan that allows Russel and Brandi Bellew’s children to live with relatives while the parents fight allegations that they failed to take their dying son to a doctor because of their religious beliefs.

Austin Lewis Sprout, a 16-year-old junior at Creswell High School, died in his home on December 20 last year after being ill for more than a week.

Earlier this month authorities arrested his mother and stepfather, Brandi Shaunai Bellew, 36, and Russel Bellew, 39, after a grand jury indicted the Creswell couple each on second-degree manslaughter charges.

In Oregon second-degree manslaughter is defined in part as causing a dependent person’s death by neglect or maltreatment, including failure to provide adequate medical care.

Cresswel sheriff’s Lt. Spence Slater says “Our opinion is that if (the Bellews) would have taken (Sprout) to a doctor to seek medical attention, he would have survived.”


The Register-Guard says family members bailed the Bellews out of jail on Tuesday. But a jail release agreement prohibits the married couple from contacting each other or any children — including their own — while their criminal cases are pending.

The parents each face mandatory prison sentences of six years and three months if convicted of second-degree manslaughter.

Department of Human Services spokesman Gene Evans says safety is the agency’s top concern for the children — the oldest of whom is a teenager and the youngest of whom is 8 months old.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY CHURCH OF THE FIRST BORN
The Bellews belongs to the General Assembly Church of the First Born in Pleasant Hill — a church known for its extremist beliefs regarding faith healing.

In response to a series of preventable deaths in another ‘faith healing’ congregation, the Followers of Christ church, the State of Oregon adopted a law that eliminated the legal defense of faith healing.

In June, 2011, the governor of Oregon signed into law House Bill 2721, which “Eliminates reliance on spiritual treatment as defense to certain crimes in which victim is under 18 years of age.”

House Bill 2721 “Eliminates reliance on spiritual treatment as defense to certain crimes in which victim is under 18 years of age” [Full text PDF file] Signed into law, June 9, 2011
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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2016