Faith Healing trial begins for Church of the First Born members

Religion News Blog — Opening arguments began Wednesday in Okanogan, Washington in the murder trial of a faith healing couple whose teenage son died of a burst appendix.

Greg and JaLea Swezey — members of the Church of the First Born — are charged with second-degree murder by “criminal mistreatment” in the death of their 17-year-old son, Zachery, in 2009. He died of a burst appendix while his parents and other church members prayed for his recovery, and failed to call a doctor or ambulance.

Two weeks ago a County Judge ruled a Washington state law that allows faith healing for Christian Scientists but not other religions is not arbitrary,clearing the way for the start of the trial.

The Wenatchee World says regarding the jury selection

Some potential jurors said that Greg and JaLea Swezey have suffered enough, and that they should have never been charged with second-degree murder for the death of their 17-year-old son, Zachery.

Others said that they couldn’t be impartial knowing that a child may have died because of someone’s religious beliefs.

Those who expressed such strong opinions were excused from jury duty in Okanogan County Superior Court Tuesday before lawyers picked a jury to determine whether the Carlton couple’s failure to call an ambulance as their son lay dying of a ruptured appendix three years ago constituted criminal neglect.

As members of the Church of the First Born — which believes in faith healing — the Swezeys did call church elders to pray for him, and anoint him with olive oil in the days leading up to his death.

There are many churches that use the phrase ‘Church of the First Born’ in their name. But one particular ‘denomination’ of sorts — the General Assemblies and Church of the First Born — is known for its extreme, unbiblical teachings regarding faith healing. It’s doctrines have led to unnecessary deaths, which have resulted in several prosecutions.

Two other members of that group of churches are currently also facing prosecution in a faith healing case. Russel and Brandi Bellew, in Creswell, Oregon, have been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death of their 16-year-old son.

However, the Wenatchee World says

During pretrial motions, [defense attorney Chelsea] Korte … indicated he would be calling a member of the Church of the First Born to “dispel a misconception” about their beliefs. And, he explained plans for testimony from two young men of the Swezey family, saying, “That testimony consists of the two kids explaining that they have, in fact, had medical treatment.”

It should be noted that Christian Science is neither ‘Christian’ nor ‘Science.’

Due to the belief that all is Spirit and matter is an illusion, Christian Science denies the reality of sickness and death. [source]

The unwillingness of many Christian Science parents to seek help from physicians for their critically ill children has led to many painful and unnecessary deaths and, increasingly, to legal actions that have become burdensome to the Church and its members [source]

Christians consider Christian Science to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity.

For comments on the Judge’s ruling regarding alleged ‘faith healing’ by Christians Scientists see Trial starts Tuesday in faith-healing murder case

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

Note: in news reports Greg and Jalea Swezey have also been referred to as Gregory and Garnet JaLea Swezey.

Vacation? Short break? Day trip? Get Skip-the-line tickets at GetYourGuide.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday May 10, 2012.
Last updated if a date shows here:


More About This Subject


Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission -- at no additional cost to you -- for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate, Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this research service free of charge.

Speaking of which: One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at