Faith-healing parents launch Web offensive

The Oregonian/April 17, 2008

The Oregon City parents charged in the faith-healing death of their young daughter launched a counteroffensive today, debuting a new Web site and pledging a full-scale defense of their Constitutional right to religious freedom.

Carl and Raylene Worthington appeared this afternoon in Clackamas County Circuit Court to ask for their bail money back so they can "fully litigate the constitutionality issues in this case." After defense witnesses testified that the Worthington posed no flight risk, they were each granted a reduction in bail from $250,000 to $50,000.

The courtroom was packed with friends, relatives and church supporters.

Their defense will include "exhaustive research" into the legal history of religious protections and a team of "experts, investigators, and other professionals," court documents said.

A Web site promoted by their attorneys features a portrait of Carl and Raylene Worthington, legal documents, citations of state and federal religious protections and a recommended reading list. The Worthingtons also plan to open a legal defense fund, one of their attorneys said.

"We're on a slippery slope here if we start eroding away the free expression of religion," defense attorney John Neidig told The Oregonian. The case, he said, will have "monumental consequences."

On March 31, the Worthingtons pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the death of their 15-month-old daughter. Ava Worthington died at home March 2 from bacterial pneumonia and a blood infection, conditions the state medical examiner said were treatable with antibiotics.

The Worthingtons belong to the Followers of Christ Church, whose members believe in healing the sick with prayer rather than medical care.

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