Oregon Couple Going To Jail For Killing Their Baby With Religious Freedom

Not likely to be poster children for the 'War On Faith'

After losing an appeal before the Oregon Supreme Court, an eastern a western Oregon couple is headed to prison for trying to "faith heal" their two-months-premature newborn son instead of taking him to a hospital in 2011. Dale and Shannon Hickman are members of the Followers of Christ church, which doesn't hold with no medical treatment, preferring fervent prayer, "anointing with oil," and sitting around doing nothing while its members' children die, depending on whether Jesus feels like healing them that day.

This didn't work out so well for the Hickman's son David, who died just nine hours after being born at home. The Hickmans insisted at trial that they had no idea David was at any risk until 15 minutes before he died, although he weighed under four pounds and, according to doctors who saw home video taken by the parents, was in "obvious distress." A doctor testifying for the prosecution said that if David had been taken to the hospital immediately after birth, he “would have had a 99 percent chance of survival.” Jesus could not be reached for comment; He may have been busy taking requests for victory in high school football games and success on algebra tests at the time.

So many children of Followers of Christ parents have died from easily treated problems -- often from infections that a dose of antibiotics could have relieved -- that in 2011, Oregon changed its laws to remove exemptions from prosecution for faith-healing parents. A similar effort in Idaho, which is also infested with Followers of Christ, failed to get a hearing in the 2015 legislative session; as you may recall, last spring we met charming "pro-life" state Rep. Christy Perry, who opposed any change in Idaho law since the state should never interfere with the right to let your kids die while you pray for them and avoid taking them to a doctor.

With the decision in the Hickman case, we suppose Followers of Christ members with sick kids may relocate across the state border to do their praying (and nothing else), since at least some places still respect the religious freedom to neglect your child.

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In her decision upholding the Hickmans' convictions on second-degree manslaughter, Oregon Supreme Court Judge Virginia Linder noted that at trial, the couple insisted they had done nothing wrong by leaving the life of their severely underweight premature infant up to the decision of an invisible man in the sky, instead of asking their doctor if prayer is right for them:

“Both of them testified that, looking back on David’s death, they would not have done anything differently,” Linder wrote in her decision.

“We do what the Bible tells us, and we put God first and ask for faith,” Shannon Hickman said at the time. “If we don’t have the faith, then we seek medical treatment because it is not there, you know.”

At the Hickmans' original sentencing in 2011:

[Trial Judge Robert Herndon] expressed surprise at how little one of the congregation’s midwives had known about premature births when she testified. He seemed to know about premature births more than she did, he said. “She’s one of the most dangerous people in Clackamas County,” Herndon said.

Strangely, we haven't heard anything, so far, from the usual flock of loons complaining that there's a "war on faith" in the United States. Mike Huckabee hasn't shown up in Oregon to hold the Hickmans' hands and whine that Christians are being persecuted merely for praying to the Lord, and he certainly hasn't offered to go to prison in their place -- that will be a six-year sentence for each parent, to be served in separate prisons.

We also haven't heard Carly Fiorina say anything about the character of our nation when an infant is left to die like that. Strange, since in this case, we know the video exists.

We suppose that deafening silence is to be expected. After all, the Hickmans' faith only killed a child who could have survived if he'd gotten medical attention. It's not like they were standing up for something really important, like the ability to keep gay people from getting married.

Update/Correction/Clarification:: We originally placed Oregon city in the wrong part of the state; thanks to alert reader "OneDemin EOr" for the correction. Also, too, alert commenter "zanzibar_buckbuck_mcfate" not only has an awesome username, but also notes that the "church midwife' who assisted the Hickmans was not a licensed midwife. And finally, an editing error converted "two-months-premature" into "two-month-old"; the baby was a premature newborn who died after only nine hours. Wonkette regrets the error.

[Daily Beast / Oregonian / Courthouse News Service / Jezebel]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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