Suffer The Children (May 1998)

Faith Healing Kills Children

An 11-year-old Oregon boy died of easily treatable complications from diabetes in mid-April after suffering painful symptoms for a week and lapsing into a coma.

Bo Phillips had been dead for about three hours when detectives arrived at the home and found about 100 people praying. His parents, members of the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City, substitute prayer for conventional medicine.

On Jan. 1, a 51/2-month old girl from the church died of renal blockage leading to a massive kidney infection. A 6-year-old boy whose parents belong to the Followers of Christ Church died last July from a hernia that strangled his small intestine after more than 30 hours of severe pain and vomiting. Four others affliated with the church, two infants and two mothers, died during childbirth in the past year and a half.

State medical examiner Dr. Larry Lewman said his records show that as many as 25 children in the congregation have died in the past two decades because their parents did not seek medical care.

Church members reportedly visit dentists and optometrists. Adults visit doctors as required when filing workers’ compensation insurance claims, but children with life-threatening conditions are offered only prayers.

Oregon is one of 37 states with religious exemptions to crimes against children. Forty-one states have such exemptions to child abuse or neglect laws in their juvenile codes.

Deadly Parents Appeal Verdict

A Pennsylvania couple convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the death of their daughter has appealed their case to the Superior Court in Pittsburgh. Dennis and Lorie Nixon, members of Faith Tabernacle Congregation, were sentenced to a maximum of five years in jail for not seeking medical attention for their 16-year-old daughter, who died of complications from untreated diabetes.

Another child from the Nixon family died previously of an untreated ear infection.

No Faith In Faith Healing

Parents who refuse to seek medical care for their sick children for religious reasons are virtually dooming their children, according to a study featured in the April ’98 Pediatrics. The study by Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty focused on 172 child deaths between 1975 and 1995 after medical care was withheld for religious reasons. The study, headed by CHILD founder Rita Swan and Seth Asser of the department of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, concluded that 140 of the children had a 90% chance of survival with basic medical care. All but three of the 172 children could have led somewhat prolonged lives or at least have been spared pain.

“These kids died of things that are easily treatable in any community medical center,” said Asser. “Appendicitis, pneumonia, diabetes–things that kids rarely die from in this country.”

Kids At Risk At Church Daycare

The Virginia Department of Social Services requested in early April that a Henrico County court shut down a religious-run childcare center.

Officials investigated Fabulous Kids Child Care Center, sponsored by the Jerusalem Church of God in Christ, in early February after a 2-year-old child was left in a van in 39-degree weather for two hours after the center had closed.

Authorities were notified by the mother when daycare staff failed to bring the child home as scheduled. That same day, 19 children had been loaded into a 15-passenger van with an inexperienced driver who had no list of the children’s names or drop-off instructions. Eight employees had not undergone criminal-history checks.

The state is trying to revoke the center’s religious-exempt status, which allows it to avoid routine state inspections and other requirements that licensed centers face. The center can remain open until the appeals process is resolved. Virginia has 753 religious-exempt centers that are not routinely inspected by Social Services.

Parents Starve Nebraska Toddler

Parents who conducted a 40-day fast for religious and financial reasons also deprived their 21-month-old daughter of food, who was taken into protective custody in December. Ashley Tharalson of Chadron, Nebraska, lost seven of her 26 pounds, developed a fever and began having seizures. A Dec. 23 CT scan and MRI showed shrinkage of the toddler’s brain.

Authorities arraigned Bruce and Julie Tharalson on Feb. 17 on felony child abuse charges. The mother insisted to police that “Ashley was handling the fast real well,” although the unemployed father was remorseful. The child’s prognosis is unknown. (From CHILD Newsletter, citing The Chadron Record, January 13, 20, and 27, 1998)

Youngsters Trampled At Easter Egg Hunt

A church-sponsored Easter egg hunt in early April turned into a free-for-all when children were trampled by adults eager to get at a pile of thousands of artificial eggs containing Bible verses and candy.

The event, sponsored by World Harvest Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, drew about 5,000 participants. No one was seriously injured.

Freedom From Religion Foundation