Faith Healing Parents Assert Religious Rights 

They Want Charges Dropped in Faith Healing Death of Their Toddler 

Dec. 10, 2008— 

A Clackamas County, Ore., couple accused of letting their infant 
daughter die by relying on prayer, rather than medicine, today asked 
that the charges be dropped, arguing that they infringe on their 
freedom of religion and their right to raise their children in their 
own way. 

Carl Worthington, 28, and his wife, Raylene, 25, belong to a church 
that believes in faith healing, and police said that, instead of 
going to a doctor when their 15-month-old daughter Ava got sick, they 
turned to prayer. 

The infant girl died March 2 from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and 
an infection, both of which could have been cured with common 
antibiotics, the medical examiner said. 

The Worthingtons face charges of second degree manslaughter and 
criminal mistreatment charges. They surrendered to police in March, 
but were subsequently released after each posted $25,000 bail. 

The motion filed in Clackamas County Circuit Court by the 
Worthingtons' lawyer today claims that their prosecution is a 
violation of the rights guaranteed them under both the state and 
federal constitutions. 

"Mr. and Mrs. Worthington maintain that their prosecution contravenes 
their right 'to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of 
their own consciences,' as guaranteed by the Constitution of the 
State of Oregon and the Constitution of the United States," the 
motion said. "Further, Mr. and Mrs. Worthington urge that this 
prosecution contravenes their fundamental right to raise their 
children without interference by the State." A hearing on the motion 
is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2009. 

The Worthingtons are members of the Followers of Christ Church in 
Oregon City, that has a history of shunning medical care in favor of 
faith healing. 

Another Oregon City couple who belong to the same church face similar 
charges, after their son -- who was Ava Worthington's uncle -- died 
in June. 

Jeffrey Dean Beagley, 50, and Marci Rae Beagley, 46, pleaded not 
guilty Oct. 3 to criminally negligent homicide charges in the death 
of their son, 16-year-old Neil Jeffrey Beagley. 

Neil died June 17 from complications of a urinary tract blockage, 
according to medical examiners. The condition, which doctors say is 
easily treatable, caused kidney and heart failure. 

A decade ago, the church received national attention after ABC News 
affiliate KATU-TV in Portland, Ore., reported that the state medical 
examiner believed approximately 20 children, whose parents belonged 
to the church, had died from untreated illnesses that were curable. 

For more of KATU's coverage of the case, click here. 

After that story broke, the Oregon state legislature changed the law 
to bar defendants, in most cases, from claiming their religious 
beliefs prevented them from seeking medical help. 

According to the Worthingtons' motion filed today, their case is the 
first application of that revised statute. 

Though the revised law removed the so-called "spiritual healing 
defense," there is still a provision that allows judges to give 
parents a lighter sentence, based on their beliefs. 

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