An Oregon couple has been convicted of felony criminal mistreatment for relying on faith healing instead of taking their infant daughter to a doctor.
Alayna Wyland was born to Timothy and Rebecca in December 2009 and developed an abnormal growth of blood vessels that covered her left eye and threatened to take her vision. Now one-and-a-half-years old, she has improved after state-mandated medical care, remaining in state custody but living with her parents.
The Wylands belong to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City congregation that relies on faith healing, and consequently, they used prayer to treat their daughter, anointing her with oil and practicing the "laying on of hands." At a juvenile custody hearing last July, the couple volunteered that they wouldn't have willingly taken their daughter to a doctor because of their religious beliefs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, two other couples from the same church whose children died from untreated ailments have been prosecuted in Clackamas County, OR.
Now, you'll find no stronger supporter of the separation of church and state than me, and I personally believe that whatever whack-ass beliefs you choose to inflict on your child will rebound upon you tenfold when they are older, know better, and refuse to visit you.
But I draw the line when your beliefs put your child in harm's way. This issue is largely muddled by faddish controversy like San Francisco's campaign against circumcision, but there's a clear distinction between people campaigning against a religion's right to use a (debatably) harmless procedure and a church's teachings causing the death of multiple children.
The problem with this sort of issue is that science progresses while faith is static. We discover new ways to treat ailments that were once best prayed over, but religious beliefs exist in a vacuum, which is part of their appeal. However, if religions want to free themselves from secular scorn (and legal repercussions), they need to understand and acknowledge the place of science beside their beliefs. The best faith is one that can comfortably coexist with others, be they faith in God, science, or nothing at all.