Faith healing trial brings Followers of Christ church back into the spotlight

Jury selection for two more members of the Followers of Christ Church is set to begin Tuesday, a day after the Oregon Senate passed a bill to crack down on faith-healing parents who don’t take their children to the doctor.

KATU reports:

Tim and Rebecca Wyland are the third set of parents who belong to the Oregon City church who will stand trial for not getting their child medical attention.

The Wyland’s daughter, Alayna, has a growth on her left eye which doctors say was making her blind. She was put in temporary state custody last summer and her condition has improved with treatment. She is now 18 months old. […]

The prosecution has said the Wylands told authorities they would not seek medical care for their daughter unless ordered.

The Oregonian says:

Alayna’s left eye was affected by a hemangioma — an abnormal buildup of blood vessels — that put pressure on the eye. That, combined with a lack of light and stimulation, left her nearly blind. She has since improved under court-ordered medical treatment.

The Wylands, like most members of their congregation, embrace faith-healing and the power of God to treat disease and medical conditions. Alayna was treated with prayer and anointed with oil. […]

The Wylands’ candor about their beliefs and the care they gave Alayna could pose problems for them at trial.

The couple’s attorneys, Mark Cogan and John Neidig, tried unsuccessfully to prevent testimony from doctors, a detective, child-welfare workers who interviewed the couple.

The defense team tried earlier this month to exclude testimony the Wylands gave under oath during a juvenile court dependency hearing last year and the testimony of two pediatricians — specialists in child abuse and neglect — who examined Alayna and spoke to the Wylands.

Clackamas County Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Jones denied the motions.

The Oregonian also notes that the case returns the spotlight on the Followers of Christ church, which rejects medical care in favor of spiritual treatment.

The Associated Press points out that:

In the past two years, Clackamas County prosecuted two other couples from the same church whose children died from untreated ailments.

Jeff and Marci Beagley were convicted of criminally negligent homicide last year and sentenced to 16 months in prison after their 16-year-old son, Neil, died of complications from an untreated urinary tract blockage.

In 2009, the Beagleys’ daughter, Raylene Worthington, and her husband, Carl Brent Worthington, were acquitted of second-degree manslaughter in the death of their young daughter, Ava, who died in 2008 of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection. Brent Worthington was convicted of the lesser charge of criminal mistreatment and sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Among the dead in the church’s cemetery is Tim Wyland’s first wife Monique. She died at the age of 38 from what former church members said was untreated breast cancer.

Theologically the Followers of Christ Church is a cult of Christianity.

Faith Healing
• The term ‘faith healing’ refers to healing that occurs supernaturally — as the result of prayer rather than the use of medicines or the involvement of physicians or other medical care.

• But while faith healings do take place today just as they did in the early Christian church, the teachings of some churches, movements and individuals on this subject amount to spiritual abuse.

• Legitimate churches and movements do not equal using drugs or receiving proper medical attention with unbelief, insufficient faith, or otherwise sinning against God.

Research resources on faith healing
Research resources on the Followers of Christ Church

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday May 24, 2011.
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