In the weeks after the faith-healing death of 15-month-old Ava Worthington, anonymous callers to the state’s child-welfare hot line reported that two of her teenage relatives might also be the victims of medical neglect.
An Oregon Department of Human Services worker who met briefly with 16-year-old Neil Beagley and his younger sister, Kathryn, concluded they were not in peril. Two and a half months later, Neil Beagley died of complications from a urinary tract blockage.
His parents, Jeff and Marci Beagley, are charged with criminally negligent homicide for failing to provide adequate medical care for their son. The Beagleys are also the grandparents of Ava Worthington.
Attorneys for the Beagleys on Tuesday asked Clackamas County Presiding Judge Steven L. Maurer to dismiss the charges on grounds of entrapment and because Oregon law gives children older than 15 the right to decide whether to seek medical care.
The Beagleys belong to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City church that embraces faith-healing and rejects secular medicine. Their daughter Raylene Worthington and her husband, Carl — also church members — were found not guilty of manslaughter this summer in the death of their 15-month-old daughter, Ava.
Carl Worthington was found guilty on the lesser charge of criminal mistreatment for failing to provide medical care to his daughter and sentenced to two months in the Clackamas County Jail.
The Beagleys contend they followed the advice of state child-welfare workers in not seeking medical treatment for their son, Neil, before his death at age 16.
The workers told them Neil was legally allowed to decide whether to seek medical care, the parents say.
A Clackamas County judge declined Monday to dismiss charges against Jeff and Marci Beagley of Oregon City, who are accused of criminally negligent homicide in the faith-healing death of their teenage son, Neil.
The defense argument: The indictment says the Beagleys violated their parental duty by failing to provide Neil with adequate medical care. The Beagleys’ attorneys contended that Oregon law is vague and conflicting, noting that it does not specify the duties or adequately acknowledge care provided through spiritual means.
The ruling: Presiding Judge Steven L. Maurer said that while the homicide statute does not mention parental duty, the responsibility is clearly established in Oregon law. Moreover, when the Legislature revised homicide laws in 1999, it specified that faith-healing could not be used as a defense against criminally negligent homicide.
The Followers of Christ Church has left a trail of dead children in its wake.
Theologically, the Followers of Christ church is a cult of Christianity. It’s extreme stance on faith healing is unbiblical, and places the church outside the boundaries of the Christian faith. Sociologically the church should also be considered a destructive cult, as its practices are harmful to its followers and/or their dependents.
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