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Faith healing

Small, generally fundamentalist Christian
groups that promote faith healing. Part 1

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Faith groups which avoid conventional medical procedures:

Many, perhaps most, faith groups recommend prayer as a supplement to medical care. However, some religious groups go further: they teach teach that certain medical procedures are not allowed, or that members should generally reject medical attention in favor of prayer. A sampling of the latter are:

bullet The Body (a.k.a. "The Body of Christ"): This is a small Fundamentalist Christian faith group in Attleboro MA, consisting of several extended families living together in a commune. It does not appear to have a formal name; however, members often refer to their group as as "The Body." They split away from a larger Bible study group circa 1980. They reject conventional medical support, even to the point where their members refuse to wear glasses. They have generally withdrawn from society, rejecting contact with education, government, medical services, banking services, entertainment. etc. They advocate faith healing. Two infants in the group, Samuel Robidoux and Jeremiah Corneau, have allegedly died -- one stillborn and the other allegedly starved to death -- and been secretly buried in Maine. 1

bullet Bible Readers Fellowship: This is a small, Evangelical Christian group in Florida. They shun medical treatment.

bullet In 1996-OCT, 3 month-old Alexus Aitcheson choked to death on regurgitated milk. Her parents did not seek medical attention. Her body was cremated in private at a relative's farm. The parents were charged with failing to report the death, failing to obtain medical attention, abuse of a dead body and child abuse.  They were acquitted.

bullet In 1998-SEP, Harrison Johnson was stung 432 times by yellow jackets in a suburb of Tampa, FL. His parents allegedly waited for 7 hours while their 2 year old child gradually "succumbed to the massive amount of toxin injected by the insects." 2 By the time the paramedics arrived, the child had no pulse and was not breathing. The parents were charged with aggravated child abuse.

bullet Church of the First Born: This group is mainly active in Colorado and Oklahoma. The sect promotes the use of prayer to heal; they do not believe in doctors or medicine.

Jason Lockhart, 9, of Enid, OK died of a ruptured appendix in 1982-DEC.

Desiree Camren, 3, of Cushing, OK died after a treatable illness. Testimony at the trial indicated that the parents knew the child was dying but attributed it to God's punishment because the father had not been attending church. This is one more indicator of the biblical theme of transferring sin and punishment from the guilty to the innocent.

Angela Sweet, 7, of Olathe, CO, died in 1990-JUN of a ruptured appendix.

Jordan Northrup, 4 months, in Redding , CA, died in 1991-JAN of meningitis and pneumonia. 3

Loyd and Christina Hayes are members of this church in Albany OR. They were charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of their 7 year old son who died in 1994-NOV from a treatable form of leukemia. After the 1986-APR trial, the father was given 5 years probation, and ordered to report any serious illness or injury to any child in his care. The mother was acquitted. He filed an appeal on 1996-JUL. The state has also appealed, because the judge did not sentence Hayes to prison, as specified in the sentencing guidelines.

Joshua and Mindy Glory are members  near Clifton, CO. Their infant son, died on 1999-FEB-28 contracted pneumonia and bacterial meningitis. He was not treated and died. The parents were charged and were sentenced to 16 years probation.

Billy and Barbara Reed of Clifton CO withheld medical treatment in favor of prayer for their three-day-old son, Billy Ray. A treatable heart condition was not detected. He died in 2000-JUL. He seemed to be recovering, but later stopped breathing. Paramedics were called but were unable to revive him.

On 2000-JUL-17, Ruth Berger-Belebbas of Olathe, CO refused medical treatment as she was about to give birth. The fetus was stillborn.

In early 2001-FEB, Amanda Bates, 13, died from diabetes in Grand Junction, CO. Her parents withheld medical treatment. Her death was ruled a homicide by the Mesa County coroner, Dr. Rob Kurtzman.

bullet

End Time Ministries:  They have lost several members in a number of states due to their exclusive belief in faith healing. Members Charles and Marilee Myers in Lake City, FL, were charged with child abuse in 1990. Their son, William, needed an operation to remove a heart tumor. His kidneys and liver had failed; he had lost 30% of his weight. He was near death both because of the tumor and from the complications of long-term malnutrition. A few months later, their newborn grandson died from massive hemorrhaging; the parents did not seek medical treatment. Two other End Time Ministry families in Florida lost daughters in the early 1990's. Five newborns died in Sioux Falls SD during the 1980's. They died during births that were unattended by medical personnel by women who belonged to this group. 4

bullet Faith Assembly: This is a fundamentalist faith group that shuns medical care in favor of prayer. The News-Sentinel in  Fort Wayne, IN, published a series of articles on this group which revealed that in the late 1980's and early 1990's:

bullet The group had a maternal death rate nearly 100 times the state average. This sounds horrendous. However, the rate of maternal deaths in Indiana is quite low, and Faith Assembly is not a large denomination. One maternal death could have a very large effect in this statistic.

bullet Their perinatal death rate was nearly three times the state average.

bullet "84 people...died after they or their parents followed the sect's teachings"   This included a number of children who died of bacterial meningitis, Wilm's tumors, cancer  and pneumonia. One child died of dehydration and malnutrition because he couldn't retain food due to ear and sinus infections.

bullet Full Gospel Deliverance Church: A member from Fayetteville, NC, pleaded no contest in 1994-JUN to involuntary manslaughter. His 15 year old son had also died from complications resulting from diabetes.

bullet Faith Tabernacle Congregation: This is a Fundamentalist Christian congregation based in Philadelphia PA, which has "stations" from New Jersey to Africa. 5 It was founded in 1987 and currently has about 18,000 members. They teach their members to be consistent: to follow the will of God tenaciously as they see it. Some members practice this belief in the area of physical health. Some health problems have become public:

bullet During the 1970's, 5 children under the age of 3 died in a Faith Tabernacle family of suburban Philadelphia, due to untreated cystic fibrosis.

bullet Two other Faith Tabernacle couples in central Pennsylvania were convicted (one in 1983; the other in 1992) of allowing their toddlers to die without medical care.

bullet In 1990, six children whose parents were members either of the Faith Tabernacle, or First Century Gospel Church in Philadelphia, died of complications following measles. A local health official said that five of the children could have been saved with medical care. (Actually, all 6 would probably be alive today if they had been vaccinated.)

bullet The son of Dennis and Lorie Nixon died circa 1990 as a result of an ear infection that was left untreated, except for prayer. More recently, their daughter Shannon died at the age of 16 of juvenile diabetes She had  felt run-down and thirsty. She was anointed with oil and prayed over. Three days later, she went into a coma and died of a heart attack. Both diseases are not normally life threatening if treated medically. The parents were tried in 1997-APR and convicted of "involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment." At the time of the trial, the Nixons had 8 living children and Lorie was pregnant.

bullet Dean Michael, son of Dean and Susan Heilman, died on 1997-JUL-8 at the age of 22 months. Michael had problems with his left knee about six months prior to his death. This seemed to cause him pain when he walked. He limped sometimes; other times, his parents carried him. A neighbor asked why the parents didn't take him to a doctor; they told him that they don't believe in medicine. They trusted in the Lord.

bullet Anne Marie and Daniel Foster received 14 year probation in 1998-SEP because they did not seek medical attention for their son who developed a lump in his abdomen. The cancerous tumor had spread from his kidney to his heart and lungs before it was finally treated.

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This list is continued in Part 2

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Attleboro Cult," Apologetics Index, at: http://www.gospelcom.net/ Note: This information source is a counter-cult group that discusses The Body from a Fundamentalist Christian perspective.
  2. Associated Press article, "Parents charged over wasp death," 1999-MAY-10
  3. "Cases of Childhood Deaths Due to Parental Religious Objection to Necessary Medical Care," Massachusetts Citizens for Children," at: http://www.masskids.org/
  4. "End Time Ministries," AFF, at: http://www.csj.org/  Note: AFF is an anti-cult group that views many new religious movements as mind-control cults.
  5. "State, church clash over faith healing beliefs," Beloit Daily News, Beloit WI, 1997-APR-21 at: http://www.beloitdailynews.com/

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Copyright © 1996 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1996-JAN-14
Latest update: 2010-AUG-01
Author: B.A. Robinson
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