Judge: Couple must surrender child for treatment

OREGON CITY — An Oregon judge has ordered a couple who belong to a faith healing church to surrender their child, finding they have failed to provide medical care.

On Thursday, Clackamas County Circuit Judge Douglas Van Dyk gave the state of Oregon temporary custody of the child. The judge has also ordered medical treatment as directed by doctors at Oregon Health & Science University.

The Oregonian reported that the age and medical condition of the child have not been disclosed.

The parents, Timothy J. Wyland, 44, and Rebecca J. Wyland, 23, of Beavercreek, appeared in court without a lawyer. They are members of the Followers of Christ church, which avoids most secular medical care, relying on faith-healing rituals to treat illness.

In March, two other church members were sentenced to prison for criminally negligent homicide in the 2008 death of their teenage son.

In the Wyland case, the Clackamas County district attorney's office asked the judge to give temporary custody to the Department of Human Services. The district attorney alleged in a court petition that the Wylands' failure to obtain medical care has resulted in serious physical injury.

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

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

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

The newspaper said it wasn't clear how the Wylands came to the attention of child welfare workers.

The state medical examiner's office has reported that during the past 30 years more than 20 children of church members have died of preventable or curable 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 of manslaughter in that case.

Jeffrey and Marci Beagley, who are the parents of Raylene Worthington, were convicted in February of criminally negligent homicide in the death of their 16-year-old son Neil. He died of complications from an untreated urinary blockage. His parents were sentenced to 16 months in prison.

In April, Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote sent a letter to 415 church families. He 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."

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