Wiccan family files suit against DHHR

A family of Wiccans falsely accused of sacrificing their children during religious ceremonies sued the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources for allegedly harassing them and taking possession of their children.

Sarah Albright and Nathan Malick III filed their lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court last week.

The Clay County couple has four children who range in age from 12 to 1. It was not immediately clear Tuesday how many of the children are still under their parents’ care.

The couple contends they have been continually harassed since moving to West Virginia in 1999.

While living in Muddlety in Nicholas County, a child protective services complaint was filed against them, alleging they practiced witchcraft and Satanism. It was also alleged during that time that one of their sons wore a pagan medallion to school. DHHR officials investigated but found no wrongdoing by the parents, according to the lawsuit.

In 2001, a DHHR worker allegedly told the couple to take their family to Clay County. After moving to Widen, the couple was “induced” by a DHHR official to open a case so the family could get assistance, they contend in the lawsuit. But Albright and Malick say their children were all happy, healthy and well cared for.

The family belongs to the Wicca religious group. They sought out rural West Virginia to live a “simple, spiritual life,” according to their lawsuit. The family lives off of money they make from picking and selling herbs and plants.

On one occasion, DHHR officials and a State Police trooper were called to investigate an allegation that the couple had killed their youngest child in a sacrifice and were carrying the boy’s body with them. A later DHHR visit came from another false report that the couple’s children had been sacrificed.

An emergency DHHR petition was filed and the couple’s children were taken away, causing Albright to be hospitalized in October 2003, according to the lawsuit.

The counseling agency Braley and Thompson and Nancy Holcomb, who works for DHHR, are also named as defendants in the lawsuit. Holcomb allegedly once told the family that the children could be taken by the state if they did not follow her directions.

Charleston lawyer Margaret Workman filed the case for the family but would not offer further details about the case. She said she probably will not be able to continue to handle the lawsuit because of her own time constraints. It was not immediately clear what lawyer will handle the case.

DHHR officials did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Charlestone Gazette, USA
July 28, 2004
Charles Shumaker, Staff Writer

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday July 28, 2004.
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