Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Faith Healing Parents Enter 'Not Guilty' Plea In Court

Carl & Raylene Worthington - Clackamas County Sheriffs Department

Carl and Raylene Worthington, the Oregon parents that prayed over their 15-month-old daughter instead of seeking medical care for her in March, pled ‘Not Guilty’ in court today, the first to be tried under a 9 year old law against faith healing.

Carl Worthington, 28 and his 24 year old wife, Raylene were both indicted in the death of their daughter on March 2, from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection, easily treated by antibiotics. Flanked by their attorneys, and holding hands, they both pled “Not Guilty” before Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Kathie Steele.

If convicted, they could spend more than six years in prison.

The Worthington’s allowed their 15 month old daughter, Ava, to pass away instead of seeking medical help because they belong to a fringe church group, the Followers of Christ, a group that grew out of the 19th-century Pentecostal movement.

Due to several preventable deaths of children of parents belonging to the group, the Oregon legislature cracked down on ‘Faith Healing’ in 1999. The death of the Worthington’s 15-month-old daughter is the first reported preventable death of a child in the 9 years since passage of the law. This will be the first test of the law in court.

Shawn Peters, who wrote the book “When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children and the Law,” noted that faith healing deaths are still happening in the country, citing the death of an 11-year-old Wisconsin girl who died from treatable diabetes just 2 weeks after young Ava and whose parents also opted for prayer over medical treatment. The Wisconsin parents have not yet been charged.

Peters adds that it is difficult to say whether faith healing deaths are increasing or decreasing in America.

The Worthington’s have another young daughter as was confirmed by the Department of Human Services who claims, “an open case with the family.” DHS spokesman, Greg Parker said,
as is normal when we have an open case, we pay attention to other children in the family. The family is working with us.”


After entering their pleas, the Worthington’s ducked television cameras as they left the courthouse. A pair of defense attorney’s representing the Worthington’s said they were waiting see reports and the evidence before commenting on the case.

They’re presumed innocent at this time, and we ask that no one prejudge them. They have not had the time to breathe properly since this tremendous tragedy, and we hope to provide them with a little privacy and respect,” said Raylene’s attorney, John Neidig.


One question, which enters this writers mind is, since their faith in prayer was strong enough to allow an innocent 15-month-old child to die, where is their faith now when appearing in court? Surely their faith should be as strong that they would rely on prayer to defend them in court instead of hiring attorneys!

9 comments:

Pogue Mahogue said...

I wonder, after allowing their daughter to die from untreated pneumonia, does their attorney, Mr. Neidig, appreciate the irony when he says the Worthington's "have not had the time [or opportunity] to breathe properly since this tremendous tragedy"?

I think they should have listened to their Grandpa Worthington. Just before he was kicked out, he said "This church has forgot their God. There is a cult in this church.". He and several other "apostates" were also smart enough to visit doctors on the sly.

Verlin Martin said...

"If convicted, they could spend more than six years in prison"

Methinks this 9-year old law should grow up some... 6 years for the death of a child is almost as outrageous as the death itself.

Lew Waters said...

Verlin, I doubt they would receive the maximum, but if they did, since the child could easily have been saved by simple medical treatment, it will be the price they must pay.

When one takes a stand, even if a wrong one, they must be prepared to accept the consequences.

If adults opt for no medical treatment, I see that as their right. To deny a child even the most basic medical treatment for whatever reason, religious or otherwise, is an entirely different matter. No one knows how their child will choose when they reach adulthood. They deserve at least a chance to reach adulthood to make their own choice.

And still, why would these "people of faith" that allowed their daughter to die, opt to hire legal representation for court? Why not depend on that same faith for the court trial?

Eileen said...

Prosecuting the parents is pointless, and cruel.
Religious beliefs are strong.
I don't think it will serve to prevent other parents from doing the same thing, and they will see these two as martyrs.

I am in favor of taking custody of children, for the sake of administering needed medical care; in cases where the situation is known.
But not in prosecution after the fact.

Lew Waters said...

Eileen, Jehovah's Witnesses don't accept blood transfusions, even for their kids. Doctors regularly have the courts remove JW children from the parent’s custody and administer needed blood.

In this case, no one knows because they don't go to doctors for anything. No one knows a child is in trouble until that child ha died, needlessly.

I don't like prosecuting parents either, but wouldn't they still be prosecuted if they followed the Old Testament admonition to "Beat your child" and the child died?

Would we be against prosecution of someone who killed their child beating him and claiming it was their religious belief?

Eileen said...

I see a difference, in that beating a child, to death, seems more like a devious act, than not applying medical care while praying for the child to recover.
In one case the adult is actually inflicting the damage; while in the other the adult is simply not acting to prevent damage, they feel god is controlling.

So I see a significant difference.

Lew Waters said...

While there is a distinct difference in physically harming a child compared to abusing one by neglect, the end result would be the same, a needless death.

Religion should be no crutch to lean on to justify killing your child, regardless of manner of abuse or neglect.

I say this somewhat out of personal experience, Eileen, not just an argumentative opinion.

Growing up my parents rarely took me to see a doctor. What could have been corrected painlessly by a simple office visit when I was a baby went untreated until I was 18 and required surgery to correct, nearly costing me the ability to have a family.

I also received mre than my fair share of beatings as a child and while they didn't kill me or severely injure me, both stand out in my mind.

My parents shouldn't have had children since they didn't really give a damn, but they did and my sisters and I paid for it.

Fortunately, we survived. Ava Worthington didn't.

Eileen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Verlin Martin said...

"Prosecuting the parents is pointless, and cruel."

Yea, they just killed a kid, why punish them for it...