Christian Faith-Healing Parents on Trial for Refusing Medical Attention

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Gina Meeks

An Oregon couple has been accused of
medically neglecting their baby daughter after refusing medical
treatment for a large tumor that developed over her left eye. Opening
statements were heard Friday at the Clackamas County Courthouse, and
the trial will resume today.

Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, parents of
18-month-old Alayna, are members of the Followers of Christ, an
unorthodox Christian group that rejects modern medicines and shuns
those who seek medical attention.

The couple would not take their
daughter to a doctor, preferring to anoint her with oils and lay
their hands on her in prayer. The benign tumor, an abnormal buildup of blood vessels known as a hemangioma, started pushing Alayna’s eyeball out of its socket. The
growth, reportedly baseball-sized when she was six months old, could
now cause blindness because it was left untreated for so long.

Timothy and Rebecca are facing criminal
mistreatment charges and could go to prison for up to five years.

According to the Associated Press,
prosecutor Christine Landers said Friday that Alayna’s father “told
a detective that ‘sometimes God heals, and sometimes God lets
children die’.”

The couple’s defense lawyer, John
Neidig, said they “are loving parents who became victims of
overzealous child welfare workers at the Oregon Department of Human
Services,” AP reports. He argued that the couple believed their child’s
tumor would shrink and vanish as she grew.

Alayna was taken from the Wylands last
June and placed in foster care for two months while she received
court-ordered medical treatment for her tumor. Although her condition
has improved, she could continue to experience vision problems. Landers told
AP that Alayna’s left eye is still not properly set in its socket.
The Wyland’s daughter currently lives with them, but she remains
under state custody, AP reports.

Rita Swan, co-founder of Children’s
Healthcare is a Legal Duty, has been involved in advocating for
legislative changes in Oregon since the late 1990s. While the state
used to protect those who refused medical treatment for their
children because of their religious beliefs, the law now allows

Swan’s 16-month-old son, Matthew, died
of meningitis because she and her husband were Christian Scientists
and believed religious practitioners could heal him. They have since
left the church.

“The parents are absolutely convinced
that God is on their side,” Swan told The New York Times.
“Nevertheless, society should set forth the standard that children
should be protected up until the age of 18. We just can’t let
people do whatever they want in the name of religion.”

The Wylands are not the first Followers
of Christ members on trial for refusing medical treatment.

In 2008, 2-year-old Ava Worthington died of
bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection because her parents would
not seek treatment. Her parents, Carl and Raylene Worthington, were criminally
charged once Oregon changed its protection laws. They were acquitted
of second-degree manslaughter in 2009, but Carl was convicted of
criminal mistreatment and sentenced to 60 days in prison.

Three months after Ava’s death, her
grandparents, Jeff and Marci Beagley, refused to seek treatement for
their 16-year-old son, Neil; he died of complications from an
untreated urinary tract blockage. The couple was convicted last year
of criminally negligent homicide, and sentenced to 16 months in

We believe God heals, but at what point do we take our children to the doctor? Sound off in the comment box below.

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