OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) Brushing aside pleas for leniency, a county judge on Friday (June 24) sentenced two members of a faith-healing church to 90 days in jail and three years probation for failing to get medical care for their infant daughter.
“Your prayers should complement, not compete with, proper medical care,” Clackamas County Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Jones said in his brief and sternly worded comments to Timothy and Rebecca Wyland.
A jury convicted the couple of first-degree criminal mistreatment earlier this month for not seeking medical treatment for their daughter, Alayna, when she developed an abnormal growth of blood vessels that left her nearly blind.
Timothy Wyland was taken into custody and immediately started serving his sentence. Rebecca Wyland will start her term once her husband is released.
Prosecutor Christine Landers had urged 90 days in jail and three years’ probation—the maximum penalty allowed under Oregon’s sentencing guidelines. “This is a case about child abuse,” she said, asserting that Alayna is unlikely to regain normal vision.
Alayna, now 18 months old, arrived at the courthouse with her parents. The growth, known as a hemangioma, was noticeable above her left eye but greatly reduced in size.
The judge admonished the couple for attempting to bring Alayna to the hearing. “It is fairly stunning that the child was brought to this courtroom or to the courthouse,” Jones said after the sentencing.
Alayna remains under state supervision but is placed with her family. The custody arrangement will be reviewed at a hearing scheduled next month.
Among their probation requirements, the Wylands must follow all medical recommendations, take Alayna to doctor’s appointments and notify probation officers when spiritual healing methods are used on Alayna.
The Wylands told investigators that they never considered taking Alayna to a doctor. Instead, they relied on the faith-healing practices embraced by their church: prayer, anointing with oil and the laying on of hands.
The Wylands’ attorneys urged Jones to forgo the jail sentence and keep the family intact. They said the Wylands were an otherwise law-abiding couple who fully cooperated with investigators, caseworkers and doctors.
The Wylands were motivated by “strong religious convictions,” not by “evil intent,” said John Neidig, Rebecca Wyland’s attorney. Mark Cogan, who represented her husband, said “the Wylands have suffered enormously.”
Another faith-healing case involving Followers of Christ members goes to trial in September. Dale and Shannon Hickman are charged with second-degree manslaughter for failing to seek medical help for their newborn son, who was born several weeks prematurely and lived nine hours.