A woman was charged with child neglect Tuesday in connection with the death of her 9-year-old son, for whom she had not sought medical attention because of her religious beliefs, court records state.
Susan M. Grady, 42, formerly of Broken Arrow, prayed with others over her son, Aaron Gregory Grady, when he became ill on June 2, 2009, according to an affidavit filed Tuesday in Tulsa County District Court. His condition worsened, and he died June 5, according to the affidavit.
The medical examiner listed complications of diabetes mellitus as Aaron’s cause of death, the affidavit states.
Susan Grady told Detective Mikka Mooney that she is a member of the Church of the First Born and “believes in faith-based healing through prayer,” according to the affidavit, which was written by Mooney.
Grady could face up to life in prison if convicted.
Susan Grady told detectives that she did not consider taking Aaron to the doctor. She told them that “I was trying to live by faith and I felt like God would heal him,” according to the affidavit.
Maj. Mark Irwin, a spokesman for the Broken Arrow Police Department, said investigating the case is difficult because it touches on sensitive subjects, but he said that ultimately, the authorities’ responsibility is to ensure the safety of the child.
Oklahoma statutes allow parents to rely on prayer to try to heal their children up to the point that the child’s life is in danger or may face “permanent physical damage.”
According to the law, it is a misdemeanor if parents refuse to obtain care and a felony if the child dies.
If parents refuse to seek medical help for their children, the courts can intervene on the child’s behalf.
Church of the First Born leader denies preaching against medical care
The leader of a Tulsa church said Wednesday that he doesn’t preach to the church about denying medical attention, but he said God’s word proves that faith is all that is needed.
The preacher’s comments were in response to a child-neglect charge filed Tuesday against one of his church members. The charge alleges that based on the teachings of the Church of the First Born, Susan M. Grady, 42, formerly of Broken Arrow, let her 9-year-old son die rather than receive medical treatment, according to court records.
“We just preach faith,” said church leader Earl Weir. “It (the Bible) says to give your all. The whole church believes that way.”
Asked why that teaching requires a total denial of medical help even when an illness becomes serious or fatal, Weir said, “That’s everybody’s opinion. We’ve had the doctors kill people.”
In 1999, a 9-month-old girl whose family also belonged to the Church of the First Born denomination, died shortly after going home from a Tulsa hospital. She was born with several infections that required surgeries and was taken to the hospital against her parents’ wishes two days after her birth.
A judge ordered the child back into her parents’ custody about nine months after her birth, but she died six days after returning home, according to Tulsa World archives.
Despite two deaths linked to the church’s teachings, Weir, who is one of several of the church’s preachers, said he does not plan to insert a disclaimer into his sermons.