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Faith-healing Parents Lose Custody of Daughter

OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) State officials will retain legal custody of a 19-month-old girl whose devoutly religious parents treated the girl’s vision-threatening medical condition with prayer instead of taking her to a doctor.
Timothy and Rebecca Wyland were convicted in June of first-degree criminal mistreatment and sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years probation for failing to seek treatment for their daughter, Alayna.

Circuit Judge Douglas Van Dyk said he was concerned the Wylands would not continue necessary long-term medical treatment once off probation. He denied a motion to return custody of the girl to the Wylands, and will review the matter in July 2012.

Van Dyk cited statements that Timothy Wyland recently made to a child welfare worker who asked whether the couple would follow through with the court-mandated treatment plan without state supervision.

“Only time will tell,” Wyland reportedly replied, adding that God is the “best healer” and decides who will be cured.

Shortly after her birth in late 2009, Alayna’s left eye quickly was engulfed by an abnormal mass of blood vessels. The Wylands, members of the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City faith-healing church, used spiritual rituals to treat the eye because medical care conflicts with their religious beliefs.

Doctors say the girl will need treatment for the damaged eye until she turns 7. Although she lives at home, the Department of Human Services has had legal custody since last July and supervises her care.

(Steve Mayes writes for The Oregonian in Portland, Ore.)