Ore. faith-healing trial draws to a close

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OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) Two parents accused of denying medical care to their infant daughter are the victims of religious persecution, inflexible bureaucrats and unreasonable expectations, a defense attorney said Monday (June 6) in closing arguments.

The trial of Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, the latest chapter in Oregon’s troubled history with faith healing and Oregon City’s Followers of Christ Church, was expected to end Tuesday and go to the jury.

The couple is charged with criminal mistreatment for failing to seek medical care for their daughter, Alayna, who developed an abnormal growth of blood vessels that engulfed her left eye and nearly blinded her.

The Wylands treated Alayna with prayer and other spiritual rituals endorsed by their church. State child-protection workers took custody of the girl nearly a year ago, and she has improved under court-ordered medical care.

“The religious faith of this family was a factor in removing Alayna,” said Mark Cogan, who represents Timothy Wyland. Cogan portrayed the couple as a target of overreaching by “the government,” which took the girl from her parents and exposed her to risky medical treatment.

The Followers of Christ has a long history of children dying from treatable conditions; earlier this year state lawmakers eliminated the use of spiritual treatment as a defense in criminal cases.

The Wylands are charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

“The law doesn’t expect parents to be doctors, but it does expect them to know when their children require medical care,” said prosecutor Melissa Jones.

(Steve Mayes writes for The Oregonian in Portland, Ore.)

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