Parents guilty in faith-healing death

Feb. 3, 2010 at 4:11 PM
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OREGON CITY, Ore., Feb. 3 (UPI) -- An Oregon couple have become the first members of a faith-healing church to be convicted for allowing a child to die without medical care.

Jeffrey and Marc Beagley were found guilty Tuesday of criminally negligent homicide in the 2008 death of their son, Neil, The (Portland) Oregonian reported. Neil Beagley, 16, died of a congenital urinary blockage.

The Beagleys are members of Followers of Christ, an Oregon church that treats medical problems with prayer, anointing and laying on of hands. While other children have died in recent years, the Beagleys are the first to be found guilty of causing a child's death.

"This is a signal to the religious community that they should be on notice that their activities will be scrutinized," said Steven K. Green, head of the Center for Religion and Democracy at Willamette University.

The maximum sentence for criminally negligent homicide is 10 years, but the Beagleys, as first-time offenders, are likely to receive no more than 18 months. Steve Lindsey, Marci Beagley's lawyer, said he would ask for probation under a state law that creates an exception for parents motivated by religious belief. He said counseling, medical supervision for the couple's daughter and cooperation with child welfare officials would educate members of the Followers of Christ on their legal responsibility to their children.

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