Belief in faith healing is fairly common, but for most mainstream believers, prayer is generally an addition to proper medical care, not an alternative. Sadly there are some to do indeed view faith healing as the only viable approach to illness and decline all medical care. One such example is a group who call themselves the “Followers of Christ” and are based in Oregon City.
A basic human right is freedom of thought. In essence, folks can believe whatever they wish, so best of luck to them in all such endeavors. Well OK, perhaps we can ourselves exercise another freedom, that of speech, and mock such silly beliefs, however beyond all this is a far deeper concern here – what about their kids?
They don’t get to choose, but instead have this nonsense inflicted upon them, sometimes with dire consequences.
The latest example has come to public attention because of the trial of Timothy and Rebecca Wyland for the medical neglect of their now 18-months-old daughter (pictured here). Because they believed in faith healing as the only means for treating illness, their baby daughter was not given proper medical care in time and so she now has permanent developmental damage to her eye and may require surgery. If the authorities had not stepped in and taken her away from the parents she would have lost the eye.
The only reason they stepped in so quickly is because the state has already experienced these kooks in the past, knew how it would play out, so took immediate decisive action – I applaud them for doing so.
Here is an ABC News report that was broadcast about this specific case yesterday …
The Wylands have now been charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment for failing to provide medical care for Alayna. The defense have raised the issue of religious discrimination and also accuse the state of overly aggressive bureaucracy.
In response, I make the observation that this cult simply cannot be ignored, here is a quote from a Time article over twelve years ago …
Oregon state medical examiner Larry Lewman stated suspicions about the cemetery’s owners, the 1,200-member Followers of Christ church. Over 10 years, he alleges, the faith-healing congregation’s avoidance of doctors and hospitals may have cost the lives of 25 children, some under excruciating circumstances. A series by the Oregonian newspaper announced that of 78 minors buried in the graveyard over 35 years, 21 “probably would have lived with medical intervention, often as simple as antibiotics.”
After reading the above, are you still tempted to think that the state is being “overly aggressive”?
Bottom Line: Playing “Belief” as a get-out-of-jail-free card is no longer an option, these folks need to be held accountable. Sure, they can carry on believing whatever bullshit they wish, but they need to understand that believing nonsense has consequences, and where the result is serious neglect or death of a minor, then they go to jail … period.
There are still other states which permit “faith” as a do-what-you-like clause, they need to seriously reconsider their approach, because not doing so costs lives.
For further reading you can find a Wikipedia page all about this cult here.
Update (June 8th): The Wylands have been found guilty, you can read about it here.
There is now another couple from the same cult whose son was born prematurely and died nine hours later. They are scheduled to go trial in September on charges of second-degree manslaughter.