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Lawyers Say Faith-healing Parents Unfairly Targeted

OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) Attorneys for two parents vowed to show that prosecutors engaged in “meddling, interference and questionable conduct” in charging the couple in the 2009 faith-healing death of their newborn son.
Dale and Shannon Hickman are charged with second-degree manslaughter. Their son David Hickman, was born prematurely with under-developed lungs and a deadly bacterial infection. He lived less than nine hours.

Prosecutors in Clackamas County “tried to put its thumb on the scales of justice,” defense attorney Mark Cogan said in his opening statement to jurors on Wednesday (Sept. 14). “You, ladies and gentlemen, are our protection against tyranny.”

Prosecutors said the Hickmans failed to be aware their baby faced a substantial and obvious risk, and failed to provide the medical care a reasonable person would.

The Hickmans belong to the Followers of Christ church, an Oregon City faith-healing congregation that rejects medical care in favor of spiritual treatment. The Hickmans are the fourth couple from the church to face charges in a faith-healing death in two years.

Prosecutors say the couple never considered calling a doctor because they were blinded by their faith. The defense agrees that the case centers on faith but see it as matter of religious discrimination.

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