Many, perhaps most, faith groups recommend prayer as a supplement to medical care.
However, some religious groups go further: they teach teach that certain medical
procedures are not allowed, or that members should generally reject medical attention in
favor of prayer. A sampling of the latter are:
The Body (a.k.a. "The Body of Christ"): This
is a small Fundamentalist Christian faith group in Attleboro MA, consisting of several extended families living together in a commune.
It does not appear to have a formal name; however, members often refer to their group as as "The Body." They split away from
a larger Bible study group circa 1980. They reject conventional medical support, even to the point where their members refuse to wear
glasses. They have generally withdrawn from society, rejecting contact with education, government, medical services, banking services,
entertainment. etc. They advocate faith healing. Two infants in the group, Samuel Robidoux and Jeremiah Corneau, have allegedly died --
one stillborn and the other allegedly starved to death -- and been secretly buried in Maine. 1
Bible Readers Fellowship: This is a small, Evangelical Christian group
in Florida. They shun medical treatment.
In 1996-OCT, 3 month-old Alexus Aitcheson choked to death on regurgitated milk. Her
parents did not seek medical attention. Her body was cremated in private at a relative's
farm. The parents were charged with failing to report the death, failing to obtain medical
attention, abuse of a dead body and child abuse. They were acquitted.
In 1998-SEP, Harrison Johnson was stung 432 times by yellow jackets in a suburb of
Tampa, FL. His parents allegedly waited for 7 hours while their 2 year old child gradually
"succumbed to the massive amount of toxin injected by the insects." 2 By the time the paramedics arrived, the child had no pulse and was not breathing.
The parents were charged with aggravated child abuse.
Church of the First Born: This group is mainly
active in Colorado and Oklahoma. The sect promotes the use of prayer to
heal; they do not believe in doctors or medicine.
Jason Lockhart, 9, of Enid, OK died of a ruptured appendix in 1982-DEC.
Desiree Camren, 3, of Cushing, OK died after a treatable illness.
Testimony at the trial indicated that the parents knew the child was
dying but attributed it to God's punishment because the father had not
been attending church. This is one more indicator of the biblical theme of transferring sin and punishment from the guilty to the innocent.
Angela Sweet, 7, of Olathe, CO, died in 1990-JUN of a ruptured appendix.
Jordan Northrup, 4 months, in Redding , CA, died in 1991-JAN of meningitis and pneumonia. 3
Loyd and Christina Hayes are members of this church in Albany OR. They were charged with criminally negligent homicide
in the death of their 7 year old son who died in 1994-NOV from a treatable form of leukemia. After the 1986-APR trial,
the father was given 5 years probation, and ordered to report any serious illness or injury to any child in his care.
The mother was acquitted. He filed an appeal on 1996-JUL. The state has also appealed, because the judge did not sentence
Hayes to prison, as specified in the sentencing guidelines.
Joshua and Mindy Glory are members near Clifton,
CO. Their infant son, died on 1999-FEB-28 contracted pneumonia and bacterial
meningitis. He was not treated and died. The parents were charged and
were sentenced to 16 years probation.
Billy and Barbara Reed of Clifton CO withheld medical treatment in
favor of prayer for their three-day-old son, Billy Ray. A treatable
heart condition was not detected. He died in 2000-JUL. He seemed to be
recovering, but later stopped breathing. Paramedics were called but were
unable to revive him.
On 2000-JUL-17, Ruth Berger-Belebbas of Olathe, CO refused medical
treatment as she was about to give birth. The fetus was stillborn.
In early 2001-FEB, Amanda Bates, 13, died from diabetes in Grand
Junction, CO. Her parents withheld medical treatment. Her death was
ruled a homicide by the Mesa County coroner, Dr. Rob Kurtzman.
End Time Ministries: They have lost several members in a number of states due to their exclusive belief in faith healing. Members Charles and Marilee
Myers in Lake City, FL, were charged with child abuse in 1990. Their son, William, needed an operation to remove a heart tumor. His kidneys and liver had failed; he had lost 30% of
his weight. He was near death both because of the tumor and from the complications of long-term malnutrition. A few months later, their newborn grandson died from massive
hemorrhaging; the parents did not seek medical treatment. Two other End Time Ministry families in Florida lost daughters in the early 1990's. Five newborns died in Sioux Falls
SD during the 1980's. They died during births that were unattended by medical personnel by women who belonged to this group. 4
Faith Assembly: This is a fundamentalist faith group that shuns medical
care in favor of prayer. The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, IN, published a
series of articles on this group which revealed that in the late 1980's and early 1990's:
The group had a maternal death rate nearly 100 times the state average. This sounds
horrendous. However, the rate of maternal deaths in Indiana is quite low, and Faith
Assembly is not a large denomination. One maternal death could have a very large effect in
Their perinatal death rate was nearly three times the state average.
"84 people...died after they or their parents followed the sect's teachings"
This included a number of children who died of bacterial meningitis, Wilm's tumors,
cancer and pneumonia. One child died of dehydration and malnutrition because he
couldn't retain food due to ear and sinus infections.
Full Gospel Deliverance Church: A member from Fayetteville, NC,
pleaded no contest in 1994-JUN to involuntary manslaughter. His 15 year old son had also
died from complications resulting from diabetes.
Faith Tabernacle Congregation: This is a Fundamentalist Christian congregation
based in Philadelphia PA, which has "stations" from New Jersey to
Africa. 5 It was founded in 1987 and currently
has about 18,000 members. They teach their members to be consistent: to
follow the will of God tenaciously as they see it. Some members practice this belief in
the area of physical health. Some health problems have become public:
During the 1970's, 5 children under the age of 3 died in a Faith Tabernacle family of
suburban Philadelphia, due to untreated cystic fibrosis.
Two other Faith Tabernacle couples in central Pennsylvania were convicted (one in 1983;
the other in 1992) of allowing their toddlers to die without medical care.
In 1990, six children whose parents were members either of the Faith Tabernacle,
or First Century Gospel Church in Philadelphia, died of complications following
measles. A local health official said that five of the children could have been saved with
medical care. (Actually, all 6 would probably be alive today if they had been vaccinated.)
The son of Dennis and Lorie Nixon died circa 1990 as a result of an ear infection that
was left untreated, except for prayer. More recently, their daughter Shannon died at the
age of 16 of juvenile diabetes She had felt run-down and thirsty. She was anointed
with oil and prayed over. Three days later, she went into a coma and died of a heart
attack. Both diseases are not normally life threatening if treated medically. The parents
were tried in 1997-APR and convicted of "involuntary manslaughter and child
endangerment." At the time of the trial, the Nixons had 8 living children and
Lorie was pregnant.
Dean Michael, son of Dean and Susan Heilman, died on 1997-JUL-8 at the age of 22 months.
Michael had problems with his left knee about six months prior to his death. This seemed
to cause him pain when he walked. He limped sometimes; other times, his parents carried
him. A neighbor asked why the parents didn't take him to a doctor; they told him that they
don't believe in medicine. They trusted in the Lord.
Anne Marie and Daniel Foster received 14 year probation in 1998-SEP because they did not
seek medical attention for their son who developed a lump in his abdomen. The cancerous
tumor had spread from his kidney to his heart and lungs before it was finally treated.