Travis and Sarah Mitchell in court

Travis and Sarah Mitchell are facing years in prison after refusing to seek medical care for their newborn child.

When their child was born prematurely, a devoutly religious Oregon couple decided to rely on faith healing instead of seeking medical care. Within hours, the child died. Now they’re in handcuffs.

Parents Sarah and Travis Mitchell pled guilty this week to criminal charges relating to the death of their newborn. Authorities were first called to the Mitchell residence in March of last year after receiving reports of a dead newborn. A medical examiner arrived on the scene and discovered Sarah Mitchell lying in bed holding a deceased newborn in her arms.

What he didn’t expect to find was a second newborn – Mitchell had given birth to twins. The other child was alive, but in serious condition. The medical examiner pleaded with the parents to take their baby to the hospital.  “Thank you for your input,” was the only response he got.

Despite it being in desperate need of medical attention, the Mitchells refused to take their baby to get proper care. The child died hours later.

Putting Faith in God – Consequences Be Damned

The Mitchells are members of Followers of Christ Church, a fundamentalist Christian sect with a supremely dark history. For decades, the Oregon chapter has rejected traditional medicine outright and put their faith in God to heal all of their ills – an extreme version of a practice known as faith healing.

“They believe that God heals, which all Christians believe, but they take it a step further, thinking that God always heals,” explains religion columnist Jonathan Merritt.

However, based on their morbid track record, God’s light has not shone particularly brightly on the Followers of Christ Church. In fact, local authorities have documented a long history of children living in the sect receiving insufficient care for serious medical issues – and frequently paying the ultimate price for their parents’ beliefs.

Back in the late ‘90s, local newspaper The Oregonian conducted an extensive review of church records and found that 78 children had been buried in the Followers of Christ Church cemetery between the years 1955 and 1998. Of those 78 children, medical experts concluded that at least 21 of the children could have been saved with proper medical care.

Kids in a graveyard

The Church of Child Killing

The Mitchells are far from the only parents in the sect to face consequences for rejecting modern medicine. In fact, they are now the fifth couple involved with Followers of Christ Church to be hit with criminal charges relating to death of a child.

“For far too long, children in this church have been needlessly suffering and dying because their parents, as a condition of their religious beliefs, have refused to seek medical care for their children,” said the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office.

Listening to former members of the sect – which some describe as more akin to a cult – an alarming picture emerges. “They have their own graveyard, and it’s just full of children,” reveals Myrna Cunningham, who used to belong to Followers of Christ Church. “There shouldn’t have been that many children who died. It’s terrible.”

Why Is Faith Healing Still a Thing?

There’s nothing wrong with putting faith in a higher power to help solve a problem, and prayer certainly has a place in our society. But when a life is in danger and there are clear alternatives proven to work, it’s time to put the scripture aside and let the professionals step in. Especially if that life belongs to an innocent child.

Yet time and time again, religious parents have proven senselessly stubborn on the matter of medical care, believing that God will save their child – right up until He doesn’t.

How many more children must be sacrificed on the altar of faith healing?

 

20 comments

  1. Atatakai says:

    Given that theistic religions are based solely on faith while medicine, on average, has been proven to be effective, I can understand why these “parents” are to be sent to prison. I pity them in prison, given that, like with child molesters, they are not likely to have a pleasant time incarcerated, but focused on by the rest of the prison population.

  2. James says:

    So, no day so over your own children? You must vaccinate, feed them what the govt says dress them like they say, teach them what they say, and only what they say! So who’s children are they and how often are they wrong? Right , this country must stick to the constitution on the govt side and the church on the religious side. Or let it completely mix.

    1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

      James if you think parents should have the right to put their kids lives at risk because of archaic writings from centuries past then I fear for any kids in your custody.

      And vaccinations should not be optional. Though I am hazarding a guess that you buy into all the BS conspiracy nonsense and hyperbole that they are highly risky and likely to cause issues proven to be genetic and inherited.

  3. Father Jack says:

    Absolutely the worst consequence of the stupidity of faith in manifestly intangible nonsense – the taking of another innocent life.

  4. Clarke Mahaney says:

    What these people fail to realize is that God put doctors here to prepare the body for healing but that God ultimately performs the actual healing.

  5. Randall Worcester says:

    These people deserve to be locked up!
    What part of “Gods plan” did they miss? God does heal, but sometimes that healing is through an intermediary AKA, Doctors!

  6. Dr. Gordon Francis Blaney Jr. says:

    Where does religious freedom begin and end? Where does the “state” begin and end? While I don’t agree with this particular parental choice, I believe a few things here: “The state should not interfere with a religious organization”, and “A religion should not interfere with the obligations of the state”.

    Where’s the issue then? Well, we’re, however, caught in a terrible position when we’re dealing with a religious organization whose intention is causing harm or death to others in or outside their flock under whatever circumstances come to mind. Killing, as is outlined in most religious texts and matters of state, is wrong. Harming, as is outlined in most religious texts and matters of state, is also wrong. In most religious texts, it’s the job of a God to judge, and sometimes that judgement involves mild emotional pain to death through direct or indirect means; and, in matters of state, we have “justifiable harm and death” brought by men. Again, I don’t agree with how people think and feel about their place in the universe, but these are the big parts of the issue.

    So, how then is it that parents believe its alright to let a child die when modern medicine can help save that child? Well, I’m sure the parents felt much grief that God did not answer their prayers through faith healing as hoped. However, declining medical treatment for a loved one based upon religious grounds isn’t illegal in most cases where we’re talking about. Again, here, I’d do whatever it took to save a life, but that’s me; religion and faith are complex, difficult, and hard.

    If we begin to draw lines with this couple, then it opens some serious issues for the US. How, for example, do we treat Jehovah Witnesses (not one myself, but am versed to speak of them)? Do we, for example, tell a Jehovah Witness that their child must get a blood transfusion or risk imprisonment? I think not.

    It’s hard to hear about a child who dies who doesn’t know the world. It tares me up inside. However, as someone that is ordained for different religions, I must be open-minded to some degree of the philosophies of conduct for others. If I’m not, then I might be encouraging a Police State in the future, in which I don’t have certain rights such as: “The right to refuse life support on spiritual and or personal beliefs”.

  7. hsw says:

    This tragedy reminds me of an old story about a flood, and a man trapped on his roof. First a boat came and the person in the boat pleaded with the man to get in, but the man refused, saying God would save him. I forget what the next rescue attempt was, but the third and last was a helicopter, with the same result, “God will save me.” The man drowned, got to heaven, and asked God “Why didn’t you save me?” God replied, “I sent you a boat, (the other thing I can’t remember), and a helicopter. What more did you want?”

    None of this is humorous, but the principle is the same. I’m an atheist myself, but if you believe in God, you should accept that the “help” you seek may come in an unexpected form.

    1. Lori Mongillo says:

      Yes, I’ve heard that story. It’s a good one. Some people are very thick headed or just plain dumb. They just don’t get it and the little ones have to suffer because of it. Very sad.

    2. Tom says:

      hsw…you make a very good point…many people do not realize that everything on earth is the result of God…unfortunately many religious groups pick and choose as to what should be attributed to God, and in these instances of children being sick the parents elect to decide themselves what God wants, instead of accepting that medical help is available because of God…Peace…Tom

    3. Kathleen Baird says:

      This is the exact story I thought of when I read about these people saying God will heal and letting their child die, rather than allowing an available physician to save the child’s life.. If there is a religious leader who advised them NOT to call a doctor, he should be sharing a cell with the parents.
      Yes “”james”, the government sometimes crosses the line over parental rights, but first priority should ALWAYS be the welfare of the child.

  8. T'Keren Valmaz says:

    For those unaware so called christian science starts the brainwashing very young. For example look up a TV series called genesis 7. The false science and hate directed at real science will make you want to drink bleach to wash your brain of the memory of it afterwards.

  9. Rev Wayne Stevens says:

    You need to do all you can do that means putting faith in God that means going to a physician and seeking out his help as well let me know what the rest of you think

  10. Secretary3rd says:

    Jesus did not need pain killers for he had faith in God that he would not suffer pain when he had root canal done. Every male over 50 has a good chance of getting prostate cancer. Ever female over 30 has a good chance of getting breast cancer. Has anyone ever gotten a Polio shot and if you did what ever happen to your faith in God.
    Get real folks if you relay on your God to protect you from death your having a bad dream.

  11. Rev Wayne Stevens says:

    I believe a physician is God’s hands on Earth why couldn’t he works or position

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      Faith without works is dead. Simple prayers won’t cut the mustard. They don’t usually even work as well as casting spells. There is truly such a thing as a faith healer, but this is not simply a religious person who heals simply by believing that faith heals. These are well trained practitioners of various forms of faith healing practices and techniques who have studied their particular technique for years, such as reiki for example (which could be what Jesus practiced). Even such healers in this country need to be licensed or at least certified. And even when using such a professional faith healer it should be used secondarily to proven healthcare of a kind which is acceptable in the community wear the sufferer resides. And in the USA that’s known as medical doctors and hospitals.
      .

  12. Carl Elfstrom says:

    Too many people seem to think that the X-Files are real, and that even extraterrestrial robots heal through mere belief. Just saying.

  13. Gary Hynous says:

    Many years ago I was in the Philippines on vacation with my former wife who was born and raised there and spoke Tagalog fluently, we were invited to witness actual faith healing as done by a “psychic healer” named Alexander Orbitu. He treated people behind a glass wall. I actually watched him treat a number of people from Stanford University who came to be healed. He actually put his hand in a persons body after doing a reading on her and speaking with her and I saw him pull strings of tumors like a bead of grape size and larger pearls from her body. Bloodless surgery. It was real and amazing because when these ladies went back to their Stanford to see their doctors, they were cancer free. God truly does work in mysterious ways.

    1. Tom says:

      Gary…i also know about Alex Orbito, through reading Shirley MacLaine and Chris Griscom…psychic surgery is real, but the focus is very difficult…you were fortunate to be able to see it in action…naturally the AMA and drug companies are not fans of this life-saving method, so it is hard to get more information…in a sense, it is akin to teleportation…Peace…Tom

    2. Lori Mongillo says:

      This may very well be true, but the faith healer is acting as a doctor would. The healer is working through “the powers that be” as, so often, the medical doctor does. The person to be healed must step up to allow the practitioner to do their thing. Children don’t have that option. They are subject to the insanity of adults.

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