Faith-healing beliefs to be used as evidence in manslaughter trial

A judge has ruled that religious beliefs and practices can be used as evidence in the manslaughter trial of a couple charged in the faith-healing death of their 12-year old daughter.
Travis and Wenona Rossiter
Travis and Wenona Rossiter are accused of only praying with Syble Ann Marie Rossiter and not providing her with adequate medical care.

The girl died in February, 2013 of type 1 diabetes.

Syble Ann Marie Rossiter

Syble Ann Marie Rossiter


Police arrested the Albany, Oregon couple last August on charges of first-and second-degree manslaughter.

At a court hearing last April defense attorneys sought to exclude evidence of religious beliefs or practices during the couple’s trial.

The Rossiters belong to the Church of the First Born, which eschews modern medicine in favor of faith healing.

The church, near Brownsville, Oregon, is part of the General Assemblies and Church of the First Born a small Pentecostal ‘denomination’ of sorts.

The movement’s teachings regarding faith healing are extreme and unbiblical. They have led to unnecessary deaths, which have resulted in a number of criminal prosecutions.

Since 1976, at least 82 children linked to the Church of the First Born have died from a lack of medical treatment, according to the group Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty, an organization which lobbies against state laws that protect parents who choose faith over modern medicine.

In his May 20 opinion letter Judge Daniel Murphy wrote that if the Rossiters religious beliefs compelled their conduct, than this was a form of motive evidence and relevant.

Without their religious convictions, the Rossiter’s actions appear “wanton and grossly reckless,” Murphy wrote.

The couple will be tried together rather than separately.

Oregon law regarding faith healing
Other recent cases involving the Church of the First Born

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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2016