Judge orders state custody, medical care for Oregon faith healers' child

The Oregonian/July 2, 2010

Oregon City - A Clackamas County judge ruled Thursday that a couple who belong to a church that embraces faith healing must surrender their child for failing to provide medical care.

Circuit Judge Douglas V. Van Dyk gave the state temporary custody of the child and ordered medical treatment as directed by doctors at Oregon Health & Science University.

The age and medical condition of the child were not disclosed.

Timothy J. Wyland, 44,and Rebecca J. Wyland, 23,of Beavercreek appeared in court without an attorney. The couple, members of the Followers of Christ church, seemed stunned by events and close to tears.

The 1,200-member Followers of Christ church has received extensive media attention in recent years. The church rejects secular medicine and relies on faith-healing rituals -- laying on of hands, anointing with oil, prayer and fasting -- to treat illnesses.

At least a dozen Followers of Christ members attended Thursday's hearing, including Carl Worthington, who was convicted last summer of criminal mistreatment for failing to provide adequate medical care to his fatally ill 15-month-old daughter.

Worthington served two months in jail. His wife, Raylene, was acquitted.

In a separate case in February, Jeffrey and Marci Beagley, who are the parents of Raylene Worthington, were found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the death of their teenage son. Neil Beagley died of complications from an untreated urinary blockage. His parents were sentenced to 16 months in prison.

The Wyland case is unusual because the authorities intervened before a child died.

A petition filed by the Clackamas County district attorney's office to give the Department of Human Services temporary custody alleges that the Wylands' failure to obtain medical care resulted in serious physical injury.

"All that anybody wants to achieve is to remove that risk," Van Dyk told the Wylands.

"Is there any chance we can appease DHS and keep our child?" Timothy Wyland asked Van Dyk.

Related stories

Previous coverage of the Followers of Christ church and recent faith-healing trials.

The judge advised the Wylands to get an attorney to try to work out an agreement with the state child-welfare officials or request a trial to challenge the state's actions. The case will be reviewed at a July 22 hearing.

Juvenile court records are not public, and court hearings, while open, typically make fewer details public than hearings involving adults.

How the Wylands came to the attention of child-welfare workers is unclear. In the past, concerned relatives of church members called a DHS hotline to report medical neglect.

The Wylands also could face criminal prosecution.

"Any decision about criminal charges will not be made until the investigation is completed," said Greg Horner, chief deputy district attorney.

After decades during which Followers of Christ children died from treatable medical conditions, the district attorney's office has taken a hard line with the church. The state medical examiner's office reported that during the past 30 years more than 20 children of church members had died of preventable or curable illnesses.

Ongoing concerns about child welfare prompted Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote to send a letter to 415 church families in April.

Foote said he hoped to start a dialogue between the church and law enforcement, and reach an understanding about when parents should take their children to a doctor or hospital.

"It is not our preference to prosecute parents for failing to give their children medical care," Foote wrote. "Our first preference is to have parents take on that responsibility so that children do not die."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.