Church has left many dead children in its wake
CLACKAMAS COUNTY – KATU confirmed Tuesday that detectives are investigating the death of an infant born over the weekend in Clackamas County.
It has also been confirmed that the child’s family is a member of the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City. There have been no charges filed against the family, as the medical examiner works to determine the cause of death.
Some members of the Follower’s of Christ Church in Oregon City favor faith healing over modern medicine.
In a separate case, Carl Worthington, a member of the church, was convicted of criminal mistreatment on July 23 in the death of his daughter, 15-month-old Ava, who died of what the medical examiner called a treatable condition. Carl Worthington was sentenced to 60 days and was released last week.
Meanwhile, Ava’s grandparents Jeff and Marci Beagley are scheduled to go on trial in January in the 2008 death of their teenage son Neil. Dr. Cliff Nelson, with the State Medical Examiner’s office, said their 16-year-old could have survived with medical treatment.
A KATU investigation in the late 1990s, showed that at least two dozen children buried at a Clackamas County cemetery died from treatable causes but doctors were never called.
Former member: Childbirth deaths in faith-healing church are frequent
CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. – Mothers and their newborns in an Oregon City church that practices faith healing routinely died during or shortly after birth because medical help was not sought, one former member said Wednesday.
These revelations came to light after an infant died over the weekend. The mother, who is a member of the Followers of Christ church, allegedly had complications before giving birth.
Church members prayed over her Friday night, and the baby was born Saturday afternoon. But it died early Sunday morning.
Myrna Cunningham, who was born without the aid of a doctor 68 years ago into the church, said that this was a common occurrence.
She also said her cousin’s daughter never went to a doctor even after her baby died inside her.
Cunningham said there is hope. She said some members now go to doctors and educated midwives help with some births.
But she said she still worries more children will needlessly die because their parents choose to only pray and not call doctors even when their children are gravely ill.
Faith healers and Oregon law
1995: Lobbied by the Christian Science Church, legislators introduce a religious defense to Oregon’s homicide statutes, protecting parents who try to heal their children solely with prayer.
Parents who could prove to a judge or jury that faith governed their actions became immune from criminal liability, just as others could assert a claim of self-defense or extreme emotional disturbance.
1997: Again at the behest of Christian Scientists, Oregon legislators add religious shields to the state’s first- and second-degree manslaughter statutes.
1998: Citing legal immunities for faith healers, the Clackamas County district attorney declines to prosecute the parents of an 11-year-old diabetic boy who died after the couple withheld medical treatment in favor of prayer. Her decision, which conflicted with the state attorney general’s interpretation of the law, sparked a statewide controversy.
1999: After months of debate, legislators dissolved parents’ legal defense for treating sick children only with prayer. The new law eliminated religious protections in cases of second-degree manslaughter, first- and second-degree criminal mistreatment and nonpayment of child support.
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