Faith healing or foul play? 2008 cliff-fall victim sues Bible school students

Rather than call police when their drinking partner fell — or was pushed — off a nearly 200-foot cliff, two students at a Redding Bible school tried first to reach the severely wounded man and pray him back to life, a lawsuit alleges.

In a lawsuit filed this month in Shasta County Superior Court exactly two years to the day after he was pulled by search-and-rescue crews from the banks of the Sacramento River, Jason Michael Carlsen alleges that when Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry students Sarah Elisabeth Koivumaki and Zachary Gudelunas couldn’t reach him to heal him with their prayers, they spent hours debating whether to call the police.

Bethel’s members purport to have the ability to heal people through prayer and bring the dead back to life.

The two later told police they thought Carlsen was killed in the fall.

Worried that they would be exiled from the church, the two Bethel students also went so far as to try to cover up evidence they’d even been at the top of the cliff, the lawsuit alleges.

“(The) defendants’ refusal to summon assistance was willful, malicious, morally outrageous and indefensible,” the lawsuit says.

Carlsen, now a 25-year-old paraplegic living in Petaluma, fell just a few yards south from where police say a Redding man died Tuesday morning after intentionally driving his SUV off the sheer earthen wall at the end of Palisades Drive.

When investigating Tuesday’s crash, Redding officials discovered a 10-foot tall cross sunk into the ground at the top of the cliff. Chris Carmona, a risk management official with the city attorney’s office, said the cross was at the exact location where Carlsen plummeted off the side on Oct. 5, 2008. The cross was taken down Wednesday by Redding employees, he said.

Carmona said he didn’t know who put it there.

After the fall, Carlsen spent more than a month in a coma at U.C. Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, his San Francisco attorney, Marc Libarle, said Wednesday.

Carlsen’s lawsuit relies heavily on Redding Police Department investigators’ reports.

Detectives for a time treated the case as an attempted-murder investigation. The pair was never charged.

That a pair of Bethel students would use prayer to try heal an injured man — or even bring one back to life — isn’t unusual. In fact, the church’s leaders claim to do just that every day.

The Rev. Bill Johnson, Bethel’s pastor, didn’t return an e-mail or a message left Thursday with his secretary to find out whether the church had put the cross on city property or answer questions about whether Koivumaki and Gudelunas were still associated with Bethel.

In an interview published in January in the Record Searchlight, Johnson claimed he and his followers’ prayers had healed maladies ranging from deafness to brain tumors. During healing services, church members blow a ram’s horn — called a shofar — to summon the holy spirit to heal the body part that’s ailing.

School of ministry students are known in Redding for traveling around town offering faith healings to passers-by.

The massive Pentecostal church on College View Drive in Redding draws recruits each year from all over the world.

– Source / Full Story: Faith healing or foul play? 2008 cliff-fall victim sues Bethel students, Ryan Sabalow, Redding Record Searchlight, Oct. 21, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

See Also

Bethel Church preaches Word of Faith theology — which includes doctrines and practices many Christians consider anywhere from aberrant to heretical.

The church is firmly planted within the so-called ‘Third Wave‘ movement, accepting many of its excesses, including un-biblical and/or extra-biblical doctrines, practices and ‘manifestations‘ — along with alleged modern-day ‘prophets’ like the controversial Todd Bentley and Bob Jones.

For additional information about Bethel Church in Redding, see these articles from the the Redding Record Searchlight:

Bethel burgeons under pastor’s visions of prosperity
Faith healings, dead raising teams part of Bethel experience
Bethel’s ‘signs and wonders’ include angel feathers, gold dust and diamonds

More about faith healing

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday October 22, 2010.
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