Faith-Healing Parents in Oregon Charged With Death of Daughter

ht_faith_healing_080329_ms.jpg Parents of a 15-month-old baby have been criminally charged in her death after they allegedly refused to get medical assistance due to their faith-healing religions. Carl Worthington, 28, and Raylene Worthington, 25, have been charged in the death of their daughter, Ava, on March 2. It is only the latest of a litany of such disturbing cases.

Ava’s condition (bacterial bronchial pneumonia and infection) could have been easily treated with simple antibiotics. However, the Worthingtons were members of the Followers of Christ Church, which pray and anoint sick members with oil — rather than seek medical assistance. Most disturbing is that dozens of children have been reportedly found in the local parish cemetery with such preventable deaths.

As noted here, this is only the latest such case. The first amendment protection afforded to free exercise reaches its limit with the failure to give life-sustaining medical assistance to a child.

For the full story, click here.

31 thoughts on “Faith-Healing Parents in Oregon Charged With Death of Daughter

  1. JT, I agree; the parents had a right to deny THEMSELVES medical treatment, I don’t think they had any legal right to make that life-and-death decision for their 15-month-old daughter. I believe criminal charges in this case are appropriate.

    I will never understand a religion that either says or implies that people are “guilty” of something simply for seeking medical treatment for themselves or any children they may have. It’s one of the many reasons why I refused to have anything to do with religion over 25 years ago, and I still do.

  2. Susan:

    Amazing how the most despicable crimes seem to be perpetrated by the ones with the most religion on their sleeve. From our good friends the Catholic Bishops and their conspiracy to protect child rapists to the Mullahs who preach bloody jihad to our evangelical brothers Jimmy Swaggart and Ted Haggard, these religious leaders,(and not just the followers), think they can commit any crime in the name of their religion and we should just stand back and “respect their right to believe.” Well, if this crowd is the best of the non-nutty, non-dangerous, non-demeaning citizenry, I say lord heaven help us all. As Matthew said “ye shall know them by their fruits.” Indeed we do.

  3. Absolutely, Mespo, I’ve felt that for a long time. And it’s equally amazing, not to mention appalling, how often the ones who claim to be the most “faithful,” like our friend Nibbles, are the first to launch verbal attacks on those of us who either question or disagree with religion in general or christianity in particular. I don’t think I’m “nutty” or “dangerous.” Heck, so far I haven’t even gotten a traffic ticket, nor do I exceed the speed limits. Some might even call me flat out BORING. lol :-)

  4. As usual Niblet’s comment is ignorant on many levels. However, as disturbing as this story is, I find myself torn in the sense of what punishment should be meted to the parents and who is really at fault.

    I spent 8 years working in child welfare in NYC, in a supervisory and executive capacity. In some ways it was the most satisfying work in my career, but the cases I dealt with left me scarred emotionally and colored my outlook with a cynicism about human nature. Most cases of “abuse” were easy to understand and prosecute because they involved DOA’s, broken bones, sexual abuse and physical/emotional scarring.

    The cases of neglect were much harder for me to get a handle on because some were caused by poverty, or by parental ignorance, rather than lack of love/care. This instance seems one of ignorance on the part of the parents, rather than lack of love. If this is the case and if they are guilty criminally, what is a fit punishment? How much responsibility to we ascribe to their church/pastor (since it seems there were many such cases caused by this belief)if we assume that the parent’s ignorance was engendered by the practices of this church?

    While in many issues I find it easy to determine where I stand, this one leaves me perplexed. I believe the parents deserve punishment (although their grief and conscience may be severe punishments)but what should that be? I also think that this church bears a great responsibility and deserves punishment, but that is a highly unlikely (perhaps unconstitutional)outcome.

  5. Well, thank goodness! :-) On a more serious note, it always surprises me how many people who claim to be either deeply religious and by extension non-judgmental (the “judge not, lest ye be judged” rule Christians are supposed to follow) are exactly the opposite. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me any more, since I’ve come across that attitude so many times already, but occasionally it does.

    Personally, I honestly don’t know why some folks are so threatened by criticism of religion, since verbal criticism is hardly the same as making a law against it. Both freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion are included in the first words of the First Amendment, which gives people on both sides what they want. It’s a win-win deal, which over all, has served this country well. As former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once said (I forgot in which case), “why would we trade a system of government that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?” Why indeed.

  6. “Personally, I honestly don’t know why some folks are so threatened by criticism of religion”

    It is strange that those who purportedly hold deeply religious views are so “thin skinned” when it comes to criticism. I have known some deeply religious people in my life and they have been very tolerant of others viewpoints, seemingly because they were so confident in their own views.

    Perhaps it is a situation similar to that of Reverend Haggard, who was so tortured by his own homosexuality, that he preached so vehemently against gay people and their inherent rights. Could it be that their grasp on their own beliefs is so fragile, they must ensure that no seeds of doubt are sown in their direction?

  7. Susan; you need a good Revend to explain to you just what exactly was meant when the Lord said “judge not, lest ye be judged”. He wasn’t talking about walking around in a stupor for your life saying “well, I know that is wwrong and that is wrong, but who am I to judge”. He was speakin in terms of degrees of judgement. In other words “don’t judge someone to be a likely candidate for hell” but it certainly is alright to pass judgement on the right or wrong of other people’s actions.

  8. I get such a good deep from-the-belly laugh when I read liberal atheist comments about religion.

    We KNOW we are sinners. Each and every day every Christian on earth sins! WE KNOW IT ALREADY! lol.

  9. Niblet,
    If you had really read and understood the Gospels you would know that Jesus was a liberal. You, however, have your faith spoon fed to you by charlatan’s who take your money and then convince you that “good” Christians are conservatives, who like to make war and screw the poor. I feel pity for you in that you believe you’re doing God’s work, when in fact you are not. Yes I agree with you that you are a sinner, however, the sin is in your ignorance of your own beliefs.

  10. Michael:

    We know the religious are all sinners. They know it too, but most refuse to accept it even though they are good enough to mouth the words. They are “saved” after all. That’s gets them a free pass on just about everything and allows them any subterfuge to “do the Lord’s work.” See, they feel obliged to make it hell on earth with anachronistic laws on conduct, morality, medical procedures, family issues, and just about every other important facet of life because they are absolutely sure (without good evidence mind you) that there’s a better world waiting. So it’s fine to push their dogma down our throat, intrude into our private lives, fritter away our basic rights, and then pray for the self-fulfilling prophecy that is Armageddon. As the bombs fall from a war they will undoubted cause, they will joyfully bask in their “glory” singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” while the rest of us do the suffering and dying. Someone tell me again the difference between a cult and mainstream religion?

  11. I doubt Jesus would allow the modern political/pastors of the right into His Presence. They are whitened sepulchers.

    Full of “religion” but absent an iota of Spirit or spirituality.

    Years ago, Harpers or Atlantic ran a wonderful issue “Are Christians Ruining America?” Judging from the last administration I would have to say, “Not from lack of trying”

  12. Deeply:

    If I were God for just one day, there would be a whole lot less people saying they working for me by sundown.

  13. Mespo & DW,
    What is sad and offensive is that once some purveyors of a religion (take your choice as to which one) choose a fundamentalist route they begin to destroy any message of good that its sacred texts, or its prophets convey. I think this is because egocentric people hijack the original intent in their personal quest for power. They use a fundamentalist approach because that way dissent becomes heresy.

  14. Michael:

    Eons ago when I was young we used to laugh at the Rev. Rex “Elvis’Preacher” Humbards, Ernest “place your hands on the TV..heeeeal!” Angleys and Jimmy “I have sinned against you” Swaggarts of the world. People knew them for the frauds they were and we didn’t pay too much attention. Their incessant pleas for money on television must have authenticated them in some way and the Right latched on to these money mills for obvious reasons. Now they had deluded thousands and spread their religious perversions across the nation. If Dante was right, there is a special circle of hell for this crowd, and I would like to donate the kerosene.

  15. Now these so-called Christians want to trash our educational system, outlaw the teaching of evolution, force our National Park bookstores to carry books saying the Grand Canyon was created 4000 years ago, force us to kneel in prayer in courtrooms, defund satellites that accurately show that global warming is going on (something their theology denies as being impossible for mere mankind to effectuate in Divine Creation), get us set for an apocalyptic final days war, and in general lead the charge back to the good old days of the Middle Ages.

    Are Christians ruining America? The political ones sure are. The real ones will have to clean up the mess later.

  16. They’re Not All Dummies Dept:

    Some of the fronts for the Christian Right are sophisticated and media savvy indeed. These are among the most fearsome of the Repeal the Enlightenment movement:

    referencing that bill in the Florida State legislature I linked last week, this flyer attempts to make it look like the opponents are anti-academic freedom! And that the bill “protects” evolution teaching!

    As if it needed protections in the first place, save from folks like the lavishly funded Discovery Institute.

  17. I recall back in the mid-70’s, being astounded having come across Jim Baker one evening, in the early days of his TV ministry, and thinking
    – ‘the missing link’…

    Rest in Peace Tammy Faye

  18. Michael,

    I agree that criminal charges are appropriate in this case; however, I’m not sure how harsh they are in fact, or what they should be. I agree with JT that religion shouldn’t be used as a shield for parents who fail to seek REAL medical treatment for their children. These parents need to held accountable with some kind of criminal penalty, however, but that will be up to the local prosecutor to decide.

  19. Michael & Susan:

    Based on what I know (and that is of course limited) and assuming no malicious intent, I think incarceration is probably not in order since any deterrent effect is now spent. Punishment seems already pronounced by natural process. I would recommend 200 hours of community service in the local children’s hospital.

  20. Mespo & Susan,
    Their actions were criminally stupid, but unless other facts come to light, not malicious. Community service might be a good option. This raises though another question that I’ve pondered for years and that is the limited range of options allowed by our criminal system. The concept of punishment for crimes is in some instances archaic and others instances cruel. Yes murderers and violent felons need to be jailed, sometimes for life, but in many other cases like drug possession jail is inappropriate and wasteful.

    The Pastor of their church and the Church itself bears responsibility too and this touches on the discussion further above and some of DW’s comments. What do we do about the pernicious use of religion to either spread ignorance, stifle dissent, or even to lead a young (admittedly stupid couple)to believe prayer alone will save their child? What today’s religious right doesn’t get is that the constitutional separation of church and state protects religious freedom for them. I know that they piss me off enough to want to see some crackdown on their excesses and yet I believe in the constitution and free speech.

  21. Michael:

    Punishment is an archaic concept since it implies we have some way to change behavior with it otherwise it is cruelty. As decades of psychological studies have shown, we have only limited ability to alter behavior with this method and it needs some updating.

    On the more salient issue involving vicarious liability for churches who preach ignorance, I would like to ruminate on that for a while. Why should they be immune? We know they cannot advocate marijuana use for religious purposes, though a case involving that issue for the Ethiopian Coptic Church,Olsen v. Mukasey, No. 07-3062, has been scheduled for 8:30 a.m., Friday, April 18, 2008, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit for argument.

    I certainly think an argument can be made that preaching absurd practices which foreseeably could bring about harm to the congregation could be actionable. I want to think more about this however in the context of First Amendment protections. We do know the right to practice one’s religion is not absolute, but what about the negligent preaching of a minster. How protected is that? Maybe JT could helps us here if he be so inclined?

  22. Mespo,
    Interesting formulation. Perhaps a tort case would be an appropriate venue for an action. It would be difficult to prove in that some malicious intent would need to be shown. Perhaps the old “reasonable man”standard would apply. It’s been many years since I was in law school and that didn’t end felicitously, thank God because the law wasn’t suited for my temperament. I did have the privilege though of taking Mario Cuoumo for Criminal Procedure, he was brilliant and kind. Anyway I see by my beginning to ramble I’ve past my bedtime. Today’s conversation has been a pleasure.

  23. I was wondering about taking action against the church as well. In many cases religious belief has only an ancillary meaning to the most powerful members of a religious organization. They want absolute power and use belief systems of one kind or another to exercise that power. If you look at the sex abuse cases in the catholic and mormon churches and also those involving several buddhist temples, in each case, the sex abuse was known and kept hidden by the religious’ hierarchy. They know what they’re doing is wrong and they have every intention of protecting that wrongdoing from ever coming to light. Perhaps this is the case here.

    I’ve also been thinking that our society just does not grapple with the underlying problems this and other cases bring to light. The court system can only deal with actions after the fact. It is mostly inadequate to this task as others have pointed out in their posts. There has to be a better way.

  24. Jill:

    Unlike the Courts who rule ex post facto, the legislative and executive branches are supposed to act ex ante, or “from before” the fact. The system is is set up fine, its just the actors who can’t seem to figure it out.

  25. mespo,

    I had not thought of looking at the legislative and executive branch this way, but certainly it makes sense. I am still left wondering why people in these branches and elsewhere don’t seem to consider deeper remedies to social problems. What you wrote also makes me wonder if there is a structural problem with the system we have set up. Maybe that structure does stand in the way. I really don’t know and would be glad to hear further thoughts on this. Thanks for your input as always!


  26. I knew a guy who went to a famous faiyh healer in Akron,Ohio,week after week for years.He died of the cancer that the healer could not heal.I saw another woman die,because she would not have the surgery needed to save her life.She was caught up in one of those “healing crusades” like they are having in Florida.People said it was God’s will for her to die.I know it was insanity for her to die thay way.

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