31 Mar 2008

Toddler's death not the first for 'faith-healing' church

KGW-TV - Oregon

March 31, 2008

by Wayne Havrelly & KGW Staff

An Oregon City couple faces manslaughter charges in the death of their 15-month-old daughter after the state medical examiner concluded she could have been saved with simple antibiotics.

Carl and Raylene Worthingon are members of the “Followers of Christ Church” in Oregon City. It's a church with a long history of child deaths., a history that led lawmakers to eliminate legal protections for parents who practice to faith healing.

The couple now faces manslaughter charges after a grand jury concluded that the faith healing couple's refusal to get medical treatment for their sick toddler caused the child's death.

15-month-old Ava Worthington died at her Oregon City home on March 2nd of pneumonia and a blood infection.

Until this month, it had been many years since the “Followers of Christ Church” had lost a child to sickness. Sunday, parishioners declined to discuss their faith healing practices and religious beliefs with KGW.

Ten years ago, several children from the same church died from untreated medical conditions like diabetes.

Here's what the medical examiner told KGW reporter Pat Doris back in 1998: "It's an awful way to die, little Bo Phillips is not the only one. We've had 3 cases in the past 9 months out here. Some have been lingering, horrible, painful deaths, all of them unnecessary deaths", said Larry Lewman, a former state medical examiner.

Clackamas County prosecutors never did charge those parents because state law allowed religious exemptions from state child abuse and homicide laws.

The controversy led Oregon senator Peter Courtney and others to get rid of those religious exemptions.

Carl and Raylene Worthingon are the first to be charged under the new state laws since they were passed 9 years ago.

The couple turned themselves in to the Clackamas County Sheriff's office after a grand jury indicted them on Friday.

They were released early Saturday and are scheduled to appear in court Monday. Detectives said that, before the new laws, “Followers of Christ” members who got into traffic accidents would take injured children home rather than to the hospital.

However, they also said most church members changed those practices the day the law changed 9 years ago.

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Ultra-Orthodox couple are under arrest for allegedly assaulting at least some of their 12 children.

The Jerusalem Post - March 30, 2008

Judaism's golden mean


An ultra-Orthodox couple from Beit Shemesh are under arrest for allegedly assaulting at least some of their 12 children. Sadly, that's not earth-shattering news in a country where child abuse seems to be on the rise. That some of the couple's children may have engaged in incest only adds to the grotesque revelations.

Yet what makes this story truly bizarre is that the 54-year-old wife and mother involved also heads a sect of several dozen women who maintain a Taliban-like dress code requiring them to cover their faces and wear multiple layers of clothing.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, in another ultra-Orthodox household, several people are under police investigation for abusing two toddlers. The youngest remains hospitalized and in a coma. The mother allegedly "corrected" the children's behavior by whipping them. Police insinuate she may be part of a sect which adheres to violent child-rearing practices.

Then there was the shocking bombing in Ariel on Purim, which critically wounded 15-year-old Ami Ortiz, the son of Messianic Christian pastor David Ortiz. A court order prevents detailing the direction of the investigation. What does seem apparent is that the perpetrators were Jewish extremists.

Messianics insist that one can remain a loyal Jew while professing faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. In fact, this theology is abhorrent to Jews and Judaism. Christians who identify themselves as Jewish have long complained of violent harassment, most recently in Beersheba and Arad. Not a few messianic Jews live among us as "reverse Marranos," frightened to share their true identity for fear of persecution. Plainly, for those who proselytize - a practice insulting in Jewish eyes - such concerns are not misplaced.

Finally, there is the decree of the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba, Dov Lior, coming in the wake of the March 7 massacre at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, which claimed the lives of eight students, that it is "forbidden" to rent homes to Arabs or employ Arabs anywhere in Israel. Other religious Zionist rabbis have also supported a ban on Arab labor.

THERE MAY not be a pattern here, but all these are manifestations of religious extremism seemingly tolerated by the community in which they took place.

Take the deviant deportment of the "Taliban mother." Anyone who moves around, as this family reportedly did, among the country's various ultra-Orthodox communities, will almost immediately come into contact with their synagogues, rabbis, communal leaders and teachers. In these communities a fair amount of privacy is willingly sacrificed for a life within the all-embracing collective. Peer pressure is the norm.

That being so, why was there no intervention? After all, had the "Taliban family" made it their practice to drive on Shabbat, their car would quite likely have been stoned by those irate at this desecration of the holy day.

There was at least one attempt by a neighbor to sound the alarm via Internet postings, but did more of the family's genuinely pious neighbors, who may have suspected something was not right, report their qualms? And if not, what happened to the principle that all Jews are responsible for one another?

Or take the attack on the Ortiz family. We've heard Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman condemn the bombing. Likewise, Penina Taylor, of Jews for Judaism, says unequivocally that her anti-missionary group denounces the "atrocity" and prays for "the complete healing of this boy and the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator[s] of this heinous crime." Amen to that.

But we'd like to hear leading rabbis in the haredi and national religious community explicitly denounce all anti-missionary violence - not just the Ortiz attack, but also the ongoing harassment in Arad and Beersheba.

Let them say what we all know: that in a sovereign Jewish state such violence is immoral, illegal and contemptible. Further, and more broadly, let our spiritual leaders declare that fanaticism - whether that embodied in the Taliban of Beit Shemesh, or in blanket prohibitions on all Arab labor - goes beyond the bounds of Judaism.

It was not only Aristotle who preached the desirability of the golden mean. Authentic Judaism, too, has always sought a balance between "too much and too little." Clearly, the lesson needs to be taught anew; and it is up to those we turn to for spiritual succor to teach it.

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30 Mar 2008

Faith-Healing Parents Charged in Baby's Death

ABC News - March 29, 2008

Doctors say Toddler's Death Could Have Been Prevented With Antibiotics

A Clackamas County, Ore., couple are facing second degree manslaughter and criminal mistreatment charges after their 15-month-old daughter died from what the state medical examiner said were easily cured illnesses.

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

But police say that instead of going to a doctor, 28-year-old Carl Worthington and his wife, Raylene, 25, opted to pray for their daughter.

The two surrendered to police at Calackamas County Jail Friday night. Bail was set at $250,000 apiece, and they were released hours later after each posted $25,000 bond, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office spokesman Det. Jim Strovink said.

They are scheduled to appear in Clackamas County Circuit Court on Monday.

A reporter from ABC News affiliate KATU-TV in Portland, Ore., went to the Worthington's home before they turned themselves in, but the couple declined to comment.

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.

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

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.

"Ten years ago I couldn't express my feelings for what was going on out there, but I can now," said Mark Hass, who as a KATU reporter worked on the story and is now a state senator. "This is child abuse. Pure and simple. There is no other way to say it."

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.

Some veteran lawmakers who were in the legislature for that bitter fight a decade ago say that this case could be the first test of that law.

"This is the first time that they could be taking a shot at interpreting the law," state Senate President Peter Courtney told The Oregonian newspaper.

Earlier this week authorities in Wisconsin said they were considering filing charges in the case of an 11-year-old girl who died on Easter Sunday of complications from diabetes that went untreated because police say her parents' religious beliefs do not allow medical intervention. The girl, Madeline Kara Neumann, who went by the name Kara and was the youngest child of Leilani and Dale Neumann, died Sunday of "diabetic ketoacidosis," according to a Marathon County autopsy report. The girl's diabetes had never been diagnosed, officials say.

Dean Schabner contributed to this report.

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A disturbing trip to Bountiful - abuse in the name of God

Toronto Star - March 30, 2008

An angry B.C. journalist demands to know who is going to protect the young from the polygamists

by Kim Hughes

Book Review: The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's PolygamousMormon Sect by Daphne Bramham - Random House Canada, 464 pages, $32.95

Suggesting a North American religious group is like the dreaded Taliban is a grave accusation. Fighting words, you might say, and sure to spin heads.

But Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham has plenty of strong language for the polygamous Mormons of Bountiful, B.C., Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz. – members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS for short.

In her riveting and unsettling book, The Secret Lives of Saints, Bramham variously calls them extortionists, misogynists, racists, child abusers and, most disturbingly, pedophiles. She says the Taliban has nothing on the FLDS where revolting attitudes toward women and children are concerned.

Though she concedes that "credit" for the "North America Taliban" designation belongs to Utah Attorney General and FLDS nemesis Mark Shurtleff, Bramham's book is a forceful corroboration of the comparison.

Not for nothing did American FLDS leader Warren Jeffs occupy a spot opposite Osama bin Laden on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List before his capture outside Las Vegas in 2006. He would eventually be found guilty of two counts of rape as an accomplice.

Yet as Bramham demonstrates time and again throughout The Secret Lives of Saints, nobody save a few vigilant reporters, prosecutors and escaped former FLDS members seems especially outraged about the plural marriages, child brides, cultish schooling and us-versus-them mentality of the sect.

Not even criminal activity, it seems, can shake our collective torpor or challenge us to question where freedom of religion ends and fundamental human rights begin.

Winston Blackmore, the so-called Bishop of Bountiful and Canada's self-appointed polygamy poster boy, has publicly admitted to having sex with minors on Larry King Live and elsewhere but has barely faced censure, much less charges or prison time.

The B.C. government, for its part, has taken hand wringing over the issue of prosecuting polygamy to a new level.

Meanwhile, Bramham writes: "Jeffs and Blackmore continue to direct and control almost every aspect of their followers' lives. With the increased prosecution, Jeffs has ordered many of his followers to leave Utah and Arizona and move to several new communities, including the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch near El Dorado, Tex., where he consecrated the first fundamentalist Mormon temple while he was still a fugitive.

"Blackmore has moved many of his followers to Idaho and has made numerous trips to fundamentalist communities across the United States and Mexico to gather more faithful to his flock.

"Girls are still being forced into marriages. Boys are still driven out to make the polygamous arithmetic work for the older men. Neither boys nor girls are getting an adequate education in either country. And Arizona's attorney general admits that reintegrating the communities into the mainstream after years of isolation and theocratic rule is still years away.

"How is it," Bramham asks in her prologue, "that two nations, so clear-sighted in recognizing human rights atrocities in other countries and so fearless in taking on tyrannical rulers on the other side of the world, have been so blind to the human rights violations committed against their own women and children?"

How indeed, and from that starting position – with dukes held high – Bramham takes readers through a brief history of Mormonism, following the fork in the road that occurred at the end of the 19th century when "the mainstream church renounced polygamy (and) dissidents splintered off and continued to practice plural marriage ... continuing to hold to founder Joseph Smith's revelation that men must have multiple wives to enter the highest realm of heaven."

As Bramham illustrates, there are huge and very troubling problems with the one man/multiple wives equation. For starters, there are fewer women to go around, meaning younger males further down in the FLDS pecking order are necessarily marginalized and, Bramham contends, cast out of the community – once their cheap labour has been cruelly exploited by FLDS-run companies.

Since procreation is the name of the FLDS game, those of child-bearing age are coveted, leading to truly icky scenarios where very young women are paired up with very old men. Families with children numbering in the double-digits are expensive; many live in poverty even as the husbands "bleed the beast" – FLDS vernacular for leveraging government assistance. Of course, those church tithes are expected to keep rolling in.

Bramham also cites documented cases of rare genetic mutations among FLDS members, a byproduct of a closed community marrying and reproducing. The family tree dynamics of such arrangements are pretty mutated as well.

"When the ceremony concluded, the men went back to their priesthood meetings, and the new bride, Ray's sixth wife, found herself alone outside in the shade, uncertain what to do next. It gave her time to contemplate the complex family genealogy that had just become even more complicated. She was Winston's stepmother and stepmother to her own two stepmothers which, most confusingly of all, made Debbie her own stepgrandmother."

But the real rub with the FLDS is the age of the brides. And it is here Bramham is most pointed and visceral.

She writes: "In 1999 at the age of thirteen, Ruth was driven north from Colorado City, across the world's longest undefended border, to Bountiful. She was too young to drive, too young to buy cigarettes or liquor. Yet a few days later, she was married in a celestial ceremony to Bishop Winston Blackmore's nephew.

"Even though Ruth was a first wife, the marriage was still illegal. She was too young to have been married without the written consent of a B.C. Supreme Court judge. And even though Canada's age of sexual consent is among the lowest in the developed world, Ruth was still too young to be deemed legally able to consent to intercourse. Urged on by religious leaders, her husband was a child-rapist."

Chew on that for a moment. Or this: American FLDS leader Rulon Jeffs (Warren Jeffs' late father) "accumulated more than 60 wives. Two young girls, sisters named Edna and Mary, are said to have been given to him by their father ... as a gift on his ninetieth birthday."

Clearly, such actions have to stop. While the story of Mormon Fundamentalist beliefs and actions has been broadly told Рnotably by Jon Krakauer in his 2003 title Under the Banner of Heaven and in various documentaries and television expos̩s РBramham's book adds a Canadian perspective.

Moreover, she makes us angry, never more so than when drawing searing portraits of those abused then discarded by the FLDS. When it comes to provoking change, anger trumps ambivalence every time.

Kim Hughes is a Toronto freelance writer and editor.

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Inside Britain's strictest sect

Telegraph - March 30, 2008

by Alex Hannaford

As 'Son of Rambow' prepares to wow cinema audiences, Alex Hannaford examines the Plymouth Brethren, the movement whose stringent rules shape the life of the hero.

Most of us can recall the thrill of seeing our first action-packed film. For Will Proudlock, the boy hero of the new Garth Jennings movie Son of Rambow, the effect is intensified, as his illicit viewing of a Sylvester Stallone film is his first sight of a moving picture.

Will belongs to a Plymouth Brethren family, and listening to music, watching television or seeing films are all forbidden to members of the reclusive religious sect. Seeing Rambo is therefore a life-changing experience for Will.

Exclusive Brethren shun everything that could be a distraction from serving God: Jessica Hynes in Son of Rambow

The Brethren were not in Jennings's original script for the film, set in the 1980s and based on the director's own Essex childhood, and which proved a smash hit at the Sundance Film Festival. But both Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith knew something was missing.

"It's really hard to show the impact that movies can have on a kid," Jennings says, "but I lived next door to a Plymouth Brethren family for 25 years, and by moving the story next door it captured the qualities we were looking for."

Jennings has not set out to paint a bad picture of the Brethren. "No one is evil in the film, but religion is one of the things that holds this character back.

"Although we'd found our plot, it also opened up a can of worms because the Plymouth Brethren is a very secret society. Although I lived next door to them, they kept to themselves and it took a lot of investigation to find out more."

The Plymouth Brethren was started by law student John Nelson Darby in the early 1800s after he broke away from the Anglican Church in Ireland. A gathering in Plymouth, Devon, in 1832, gave the sect its name, but 10 years later, the group itself split into 'Exclusive Brethren' and 'Open Brethren' - the former being much stricter.

A relative of Jennings's taught at an Exclusive Brethren school and the director used him to build a clearer picture of life behind closed Brethren doors.

"I found out loads of little details," Jennings says. "The Exclusive Brethren shun pretty much everything that could be a distraction from serving God, including television, film, literature and pop music. They are not whacky, but they do take their beliefs very seriously and follow a strict moral code.

"When I was growing up in the 1980s, video and computers hadn't saturated our lives like they have now. It must be much harder to 'opt out' these days. You'd be constantly battling against the evils the rest of us indulge in.

"There are quite a lot of ex-Brethren, casualties I suppose, families that have been pulled apart. Once you've left that's it: if your family are still in the Brethren you're not allowed contact with them."

One example is David (not his real name), 56, who left the Exclusive Brethren in the early 1970s after a new leader began introducing stricter rules. The leader's behaviour also raised alarm bells.

"In my first 10 years the Brethren were a happy group," David says. "Friends and relatives who were non-Brethren were allowed to stay with us and we could eat with them, but in the early 1960s an American named Jim Taylor forced his way to the top and began 'separation'."

Separation meant sect members must keep away from anyone who didn't follow the Exclusive teaching. They weren't allowed to make friends or eat ("break bread") with anyone outside the church.

"Suddenly, we had to cut off any contact with our cousins," David continues. "They were dead to us. There was no cinema, no joining in with prayers at regular schools, no going round to friends' houses. It was all to do with the orders of Jim Taylor.

"In 1970, Taylor started sleeping with another sect wife. He claimed he was a pure man, but there was an Exclusive Brethren gathering in Aberdeen and he appeared on stage obviously drunk. After that there was a split in the group."

In the following two years, about 8,000 Exclusives left, but a large number remained.

"My wife and I left, but my eldest brother and some uncles and aunts stayed and cut off contact with us," says David. "Taylor effectively radicalised the Brethren. It was always strict, but he made it worse.

"My eldest brother rarely talks to me, though we live in the same town. At my father's funeral, last year, he stood 100 yards away from everyone else. If I see him in the street and he's on his own, he'll raise his hand. If his wife is with him, he'll ignore me. I'm just sad for them. They're missing out on so much."

Today, the leader of the Exclusive Brethren is an Australian, Bruce Hales, who inherited the job from his father, John. There are now about 46,000 Exclusive members worldwide.

In the early 1990s, questionnaires were sent to 300 former Exclusives around the world, 200 of which were returned completed. Of these, 76 per cent felt a sense of loss in leaving close friends behind. Half were plagued by upsetting memories of their days in the Exclusives.

A spokesperson for Peebs.net - an information website set up to 'investigate and report the truth behind the Exclusive Brethren' - says: "We've been following Son of Rambow since it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival?… shame no active Exclusive Brethren will be allowed to see the movie."

That's one of the reasons why Jennings isn't worried about a potential Brethren backlash. "I don't feel conniving about it, but it is a point. They'll never see it.

"Besides, you could see our film as a statement on the corrupting power of television. I see it as something completely different - that by shutting people off from certain things, you're not really educating them.

"While it may be right for some people, it can't be right for everyone and it certainly isn't right for the boy in the film."

This article was found at:



Totalitarian control of Exclusive Brethren members means children have no true intellectual or religious freedom

Exclusive Brethren schools funded by Australian government allow parents to evade taxes when paying school fees

Intellectual abuse in Exclusive Brethren's government funded schools prevents kids from thinking too much 

Exclusive Brethren demands apology for discrimination, survivor says cult should apologize for breaking up families

Exclusive Brethren claim to uphold family values but completely shun any family member who disobeys cruel dogma

Interview with psychologist Jill Mytton about religious abuse [VIDEO]

Cult researcher reveals emotional cost of separation

Family care 'tied to Exclusive Brethren sect gag order'

Exclusive Bretheren children abused

Court finds Exclusive Brethren's use of children as weapons in custody disputes is "psychologically cruel, unacceptable and abusive", but father still loses access

Brethren mother flouts court order

Ex-Brethren father loses battle for children

Trauma claim in sect custody battle for two children

Sect 'brainwashed boy against dad'

Breakout - How I Escaped From The Exclusive Bretheren 

Law Sanctifies Child Homicide in Name of Faith

Freedom From Religion Foundation

March 28, 2008

Memorialize 11-Year-Old Madeline by Removing Faith Exemption

As a memorial to the painful, frightening and needless death of Madeline Kara Neumann, the Wisconsin Legislature needs to finally show some gumption, and remove from the statutes its exemption sanctifying child homicide in the name of faith.

Statement by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-Presidents

The death of an 11-year-old child from illness is always tragic, but what puts Madeline Kara Neumann's death last Sunday in a different class is that it is unforgiveable. Madeleine's long descent into diabetic ketoacidosis was unnecessary, preventable and the result of willful negligence on the part of her bible-believing parents.

It's one thing for an adult to choose prayer over medicine. But it is sheer child sacrifice to permit parents to eschew medical diagnosis and treatment of ill offspring. Parents do not own their children, much less have the right to endanger their children's lives by callously disregarding medical needs in the name of religion.

What's even more appalling is the ambivalent reaction: "Ethicists say case unclear," reports the Wausau Daily Herald. The Herald quoted bioethicist Dr. Norman Fost of the University of Wisconsin Medical school warning that it's important not to be moralistic or pass judgment on parents who think they can heal a child through prayer: "They believe they're helping their child; they love their child, and they believe prayer has an effect."

However deluded the parents may be, the rest of us need not countenance or indulge that dangerous delusion.

Dean Zuleger, the administrator of the Village of Weston, was quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saying, "There is a general sense of grief and sadness. Because I know the family a bit, there is a great deal of concern for their well-being." The parents' well-being?

"Death draws out difficult issues" read a headline in the Journal Sentinel. While Madeline's drawn-out death, involving nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, weight loss and weakness, is very difficult to read about, there is nothing difficult at all about deciding where the blame lies. "The prayer of faith will heal the sick," according to James 5:15. The fault lies in society's laudatory attitude toward a "holy book" which teaches superstition and faith-healing, whose passages are latched onto by bible literalists, and whose obedience to such injunctions has been given a pass in the criminal statutes of many states.

The mother, Leilani Neumann, of Weston, Wis., publicly announced: "We need healing. We are going through the healing process." What about the healing process her daughter required? This helpless dependent of a middle-class family had last seen a doctor at the age of three, and recently had been pulled out of public schools for religious home-schooling, possibly to cover up symptoms of her illness, which, according to medical experts, would have surfaced at least six months ago.

Legally, the question will revolve over whether the family recognized the seriousness of the illness. A chronology has emerged which belies the family's claim that they did not realize how sick Madeline was, including logs of their calls around the country to relatives (who notified authorities just before her death that Madeline was seriously ill) and to David Eels, whose Unleavened Bread Ministries operates AmericasLastDays.com. Eels, of Pensacola, Fla., admitted he prayed for Madeline the day before she died, and that the family phoned him Sunday, as they followed an ambulance with their dead daughter to the hospital, asking him "if I would pray that the Lord would spare her and raise her up, which I did."

Leilani Neumann told reporters she and her husband are not worried about an investigation because "our lives are in God's hands. We know we did not do anything criminal. We know we did the best for our daughter we knew how to do."

Their "best" was not good enough. Nor is the religious exemption provided for by Wisconsin statutes, similar to what many states have adopted under pressure of the Christian Science lobby. What they don't realize is that doing nothing to help their daughter is parental negligence, which is criminal. The parents can still be charged, at least with some form of negligence or child abuse. But more action is required.

As a memorial to the painful, frightening and needless death of Madeline Kara Neumann, the Wisconsin Legislature needs to finally show some gumption, and remove from the statutes its callous exemption sanctifying child homicide in the name of faith.

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29 Mar 2008

Charges possible in diabetes death

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

March 28, 2008

Parents had not taken daughter, 11, to doctor since she was 3, police say


Weston - A local police official said Friday that charges are possible against the parents of Madeline Kara Neumann, the 11-year-old girl who died of complications from untreated diabetes. "If we didn't believe at the end of our investigation there (would) be charges, then our investigation would have ended a lot sooner," Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel.

He said his department will likely complete its investigation by early next week and that ultimately it will be up to the Marathon County district attorney to determine what charges, if any, could be filed in a case that has received national attention.

"Our feeling is it was an unnecessary death," Vergin said. "After everything else is said and done, it was unnecessary for the 11-year-old to die. She could have easily been treated and had a long, loving life here on Earth."

Lesli Pluster, an assistant district attorney, said the case "is still considered under investigation."

Dale and Leilani Neumann had not taken their daughter to a doctor since she was 3 years old, police said. Leilani Neumann has said the family does not belong to any organized religion or faith but believes in the Bible and that healing comes from God.

The girl died Sunday of diabetic ketoacidosis, a treatable though serious condition of type 1 diabetes in which acid builds up in the blood.

Earlier this week, police executed a search warrant on the Neumanns' home and took away medications, medical books, bedding, religious books, videos and pamphlets, as well as diaries and computer equipment.

Among the items taken by police from the home were eight Blue Cross HMO cards for the family, according to an inventory. The record didn't indicate whether the cards were still valid or had expired.

The book "Sovereign God," by David Eells, and several CDs by Eells were also taken. Eells is the founder of the Web site AmericasLastDays.com and Unleavened Bread Ministries. Leilani Neumann has written two posts on the Web site, and she and her husband had twice prayed over the telephone with Eells in the waning hours of Kara's life.

Other books included "Handbook for Healing," "God's Chosen Fast," "90 Minutes in Heaven," "Dear God Prayer Book" and a medical and first-aid book.

The request for the search warrant included new details of the case. The girl was known as Kara to family and friends, but she is referred to as Madeline in the official documents obtained by the Journal Sentinel.
Grandmother concerned

Evalani Gordon, the girl's grandmother, told an investigator that her granddaughter had been ill for one to 1 ½ weeks and reported that "Madeline was very tired and wanted to be held by mom."

She said three to four days before her granddaughter's death, "the girl only wanted to lie down and do homework from her bed." By Saturday, when the girl was unable to walk or talk, the grandmother, who lives out of state, told Leilani Neumann to take Madeline to a doctor, the document says.

"Leilani Neumann told Evalani Gordon that Madeline would be fine and God would heal her," according to the document.

On Sunday, Gordon spoke with Leilani Neumann and discovered the girl was in a coma. Gordon then contacted a daughter-in-law, Ariel Ness, who lives in California. Ness then called the Marathon County Dispatch Center.

Ness later contacted the dispatch center to inform authorities that "water may have been poured down the girl's throat," the document says.

Marathon County Medical Examiner John Larson said that the girl "was found to be in an emaciated state," according to the document.
Appeared malnourished

In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Larson said, "I think it's probably safe to say she was gaunt, drawn, extremely slender. She certainly had an appearance of malnutrition and dehydration."

According to the Web site of the American Diabetes Association, the body burns fat to get energy in ketoacidosis.

Vergin also provided other details of the case in an interview. He said the Neumanns' three other children were at the home as well as Althea and Randall Wormgoor, friends of the couple. The Wormgoors spoke on the phone during a 911 call from the home Sunday.

Vergin said when authorities arrived at the home, "the copper just scooped the child up and ran out to the ambulance."

Friday, a friend of the family answered the door at the Neumanns' home and said the family was not interested in talking.

Vergin said on Friday the three other Neumann children were staying with extended family outside Marathon County under an agreement reached by the Neumanns and authorities. The children had been in the custody of the Marathon County Department of Social Services. Vergin said the children had been questioned by authorities and given medical checkups.

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Parents indicted, then surrender in faith-healing case

The Oregonian - March 29, 2008

Crime - The Oregon City couple are charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death of their daughter

The Oregonian Staff

An Oregon City couple whose 15-month-old daughter died this month of medically treatable conditions surrendered to police Friday night hours after a Clackamas County grand jury indicted them.

They are at the heart of a case testing a state law that bars faith healing when it could endanger a child's life.

Based on the jury's findings, arrest warrants were issued for Carl Brent Worthington, 28, and Raylene Worthington, 25, on charges of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree criminal mistreatment in the March 2 death of their daughter, Ava.

At 8:30 p.m., the pair voluntarily surrendered at the Clackamas County Jail, said Detective Jim Strovink, a sheriff's office spokesman. They were held on $250,000 bail each.

Television reporters soon descended on the jail's entrance, reacting to a tip that the husband and wife would post the $25,000 apiece needed to avoid spending the weekend in jail.

Their first court appearance was set for 1:30 p.m. Monday in Clackamas County Circuit Court.

A deputy state medical examiner determined that Ava died for lack of medical care. The girl suffered from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection -- both treatable or preventable with antibiotics.

The parents are members of Oregon City's Followers of Christ, a fundamentalist Christian church that has seen dozens of children buried since the 1950s in the parish cemetery south of Oregon City. Many of them could have been saved by medical intervention, according to a 1998 analysis by The Oregonian.

The cluster of deaths prompted the 1999 Oregon Legislature to debate the issues of religious freedom, parental rights and public responsibility to protect children, culminating in the law allowing prosecution in preventable deaths.

The Worthingtons are the first congregation members to face criminal charges for failing to seek medical treatment for a gravely ill child.

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The polygamy problem

Vancouver Sun - March 29, 2008

Canadians don't condone the practices of fundamentalist Mormons, yet nothing is done about plural wives, 'lost boys' and abuse. Daphne Bramham's analysis is a must-read

Don Grayston, Special to the Sun

Book Review:



Random House Canada, 439 pages ($32.95)

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Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham took the road to Bountiful and found it paved with child abuse, forced marriage, greed, lies, fraud and the suckering of the provincial government. The story she tells in The Secret Lives of Saints, a well-researched book on the community, is gripping, illuminating and infuriating.

Bountiful, near Creston in southeastern B.C., has been the home of a polygamous community of fundamentalist Mormons since the 1940s. The villain of the piece is Winston Blackmore, millionaire bishop, husband of (at last count) 26 wives and father of 109 children. He is the folksy, shrewd patriarch of an essentially pre-modern society, which he controls by his knowledge of the modern/postmodern world in which the rest of us live -- a world to which he largely denies his followers access.

On the wall of his office is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which he confidently believes gives him, through its reference to freedom of religion, the right to practise polygamy as a religious duty.

Some history: In 1843, it was "revealed" to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism (properly called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), that only men with multiple wives would reach the highest level of heaven. This "revelation" had become necessary, non-Mormons observed, because more women than men had been attracted to his movement. If they were to be married and have children, they would have to share the men available -- hence the idea that polygamy, as in Biblical times, was once again the will of God.

In 1890, however, the American government, negotiating about statehood with the Mormon-majority Utah Territory, demanded that no further such marriages be celebrated. (This was the same year that Canada criminalized polygamy.) In timely fashion, the head of the Mormon Church received a revelation that the practice of plural marriage could be suspended (not repudiated, since that would have meant disagreeing with Joseph Smith), and so statehood came in 1896.

Some Mormons rejected this accommodation with "the Beast" (i.e., the government) and continued to practise polygamy. The first of them had come to Canada in 1886, before this accommodation. After that, they were joined by others who also rejected it, and it is from them that Bountiful descends.

The Fundamentalist LDS is, of course, not recognized by mainstream Mormons as Mormon. This bothers the sect not a whit, since members see themselves as faithful to the original revelation, and the mainstream Mormons as apostates.

In real terms, this means that teenage girls can be "married" in ceremonies that have no legal standing in Canada to men as old as their grandfathers; that B.C. taxpayers have for years been funding schools that inculcate the total subservience of women to men; that young men -- the "lost boys," exploited by being forced to work for peanuts for FLDS-owned companies -- are being ejected from the community because the older men have no intention of letting them marry women their own age; that men who disobey the leadership can be "stripped" of their wives and children, who are then "assigned" to "obedient" members of the community; and that "lying for the Lord" to the police is entirely acceptable.

Bramham's summary, speaking of Blackmore and other cult leaders: "The depth of ... inculcated misogyny, the grotesqueness of [their] greed and the sheer depravity of their actions in this cult is stunning."

So where do things stand?

An RCMP investigation concluded last year that there was no substantial likelihood of convicting any resident of Bountiful for any specific crime.

Unsatisfied, Attorney-General Wally Oppal then appointed a special prosecutor, Richard Peck, who recommended that the government test the constitutionality of the polygamy law in court -- a recommendation rejected by Oppal, who, as a former judge, knows that judges resent being asked to do the work of politicians.

But Peck did convince Oppal that polygamy, rather than the child abuse that flows from it, is the root of the problem. A second prosecutor, Leonard Doust, has therefore been commissioned to prepare for prosecutions on the charge of polygamy.

My recommendation is that Bramham's publisher send a copy of this compelling and justice-demanding book to every member of our legislative assembly. Meanwhile, Winston Blackmore sits in his office, smiling up at the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and daring the Beast to act.

Don Grayston taught religious studies at Simon Fraser University from 1989 to 2004. He is president of the International Thomas Merton Society.

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28 Mar 2008

Death of Bountiful teen who was using heavy equipment is under investigation

Vancouver Sun - March 28

Children around dangerous work can have tragic results

by Daphne Bramham

A 14-year-old boy is dead, killed at mill site near Cranbrook nine days ago.

Steven Clancy Blackmore was apparently trying to manipulate some heavy equipment at a lumber mill with a pole when the weight of the equipment "must have been too heavy and fell back on the victim," according to an RCMP press release issued six days after the accident. "When found by his father, the pole was pinned across the victim's neck."

Neither his father nor paramedics was able to revive him.

The victim is a nephew of fundamentalist Mormon leader Winston Blackmore. The work site is owned by Palmer Bar Holdings Inc., whose sole director is Duane Palmer. Palmer is Blackmore's bishop in the community of Bountiful and superintendent of the government-funded Mormon Hills School.

The boy's father, Karl Blackmore, told RCMP that his son was not working at the site and was not an employee of Palmer Bar Holdings. The father told police that he took his son with him after the mill was closed to unload some wood. While the father did that, his son was apparently left on his own to scramble around heavy equipment.

RCMP, the provincial coroner and WorkSafeBC are all investigating. WorkSafeBC has yet to determine whether the boy was working at the site. But its investigator is checking to ensure that the site is safe for visitors as well as employees, according to Roberta Ellis, the vice-president of investigation policies.

She said the inspector will be looking at whether the company's training and supervision for new and young workers is adequate.

The tragedy has parallels with the death of a 13-year-old in Surrey, who was crushed by sheets of drywall while he was visiting his father's work site in February.

But in the Cranbrook case, the question needs to be asked whether the boy really was only visiting the site or whether he was or had been working at the site.

It is not uncommon for boys from Bountiful to work at various logging and forestry companies owned by group members. When the provincial curriculum still required high school students to try out different jobs, boys from the government-funded, independent school in Bountiful were routinely sent to forestry companies.

Boys and a few girls who have left the sect say they started working as young as 14 or 15 -- working around dangerous equipment, sometimes without proper safety equipment.

Creston Mayor Joe Snopek has raised concerns about Bountiful companies using children to do dangerous work in the past, such as stripping shingles off roofs without protective gear or working on a fencing project at the local airport.

This week, Snopek said that small, family-run companies do not appear to have to follow the same kind of rules that bigger employers such as the municipalities do.

Whether we'll ever really find out what happened to the young Blackmore boy is an open question since the boy and the company's owners are all members of the reclusive, polygamist sect.

Yet even if he was working at the site, there is nothing illegal. Children that age can work in dangerous jobs in this province.

In fact, the Liberal government created the perfect conditions for children to be put into risky jobs. In 2001, it introduced a so-called training wage that allows employers to pay inexperienced workers 25 per cent less.

Then, in 2003, it substantially changed the youth employment regulations. With the permission of only one parent, children as young as 12 can work up to 35 hours a week even when school is in session.

The only places children can't work are mines, bars or taverns. Yet, it's forestry where the work is the most dangerous.

Forestry workers are three times more likely to die than workers in any other high-risk industries. And their injuries are more likely to result in long-term disability than injuries in construction, manufacturing or even mining.

Every year, an average of 22 workers die and 92 are severely injured in the provincial forestry industry even though the total number of forestry workers has been -- and is expected to continue -- declining every year.

Since the youth employment rules have changed, the percentage of workers injured who are under 25 has risen steadily and now accounts for nearly one in five compensation claims.

B.C. Auditor-General John Doyle blamed the provincial government for these horrible statistics in a report released in January, saying that it has downloaded responsibility for safety to small, independent contractors and self-employed people who are incorporated as companies.

"These smaller firms ... generally lack the knowledge, organization and financial resources to meet safety responsibilities," Doyle's report says. "For the smallest companies, the incentives to take risks with worker safety exist particularly as contracting is highly competitive and requires no safety infrastructure pre-qualification to bid."

But even assuming that Clancy Blackmore -- like the 13-year-old Surrey boy -- was only visiting his father's work site, something needs to done.

It seems only sensible that no one, and especially no children, should be allowed unsupervised access to high-risk work sites.

And if company owners and managers won't write their own rules and enforce them or if parents won't, then the government must step in and do it for them for the sake of all children.


For more about polygamy, go to http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/

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27 Mar 2008

Faith, medicine collide, and a young girl dies

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

March 26, 2008
Parents chose to pray rather than get medical help for sick child

by Bill Glauber

Children don't often die like this in the United States.

But on Sunday in the Town of Weston, near Wausau, 11-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann died of diabetic ketoacidosis, a treatable though serious condition of type 1 diabetes in which acid builds up in the blood.

Neumann's parents said they didn't know she had diabetes. They didn't take her to a doctor. They prayed for healing.

The common course of medical treatment for the disease involves injections of insulin and intravenous fluids, said Omar Ali, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa.

"A fatal outcome would be unusual these days in the United States," Ali said.

The death of the girl has shocked the community and raised profound moral and legal questions over when medicine should trump faith, especially when the life of a child is at stake.

There is no indication authorities knew of the girl's dire medical condition before her death. Local police are investigating the case and have said they could forward their results to the Marathon County district attorney's office. The Marathon County Department of Social Services has also launched an investigation.

Authorities said Wednesday that the Neumanns' three other children - ages 13, 14 and 17 - were being interviewed by Social Services and law enforcement and were being checked by a physician.

"The reaction is sadness, and I think a little bit (of) amazement," said Dean Zuleger, administrator for the Village of Weston. "I haven't seen a lot of what I would see to be knee-jerk judgment. There is a general sense of grief and sadness. Because I know the family a bit there is a great deal of concern for their well-being."

Zuleger said the girl's parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, are well-known in the community. They moved there from California two years ago and run a popular coffee shop.

"I probably had seen the little girl sometime during the winter," Zuleger said. "She appeared to be a vibrant little 11-year-old. I know some folks who were at some of the birthday parties said she appeared to be fine. I don't know how the onset of this diabetes affects kids. By all indications based on our knowledge of the family they aren't weird or peculiar or fanatic or anything like that. Everything appeared to be normal."

Reached by telephone at her home, Leilani Neumann said the family did not know 11-year-old Kara had the disease before her death.

"It was something that came on suddenly," she said. "She went to birthday parties recently, she went sledding for two hours, she was perfectly fine until the last few days. We ask if people can pray for us and give us our privacy as we grieve our daughter."

Leilani Neumann told The Associated Press that the family does not belong to any organized religion or faith but believes in the Bible and said that healing comes from God.

There were also two postings under her name on the Web site AmericasLastDays.com, which is operated by Unleavened Bread Ministries, an evangelical ministry that focuses on the apocalypse.
'They aren't crazy people'

It was Sunday at 2:33 p.m. when Everest Metro Police said they first learned of the girl's condition. A call came into the dispatch center from a family relative who lived in California, said Police Chief Dan Vergin.

Vergin said the relative notified authorities "that the child was ill, and due to religious reasons the family would not take the child to the hospital."

Officers were dispatched to the home, and a second call - this time from the family's residence - was placed to 911, Vergin said. The caller said the girl was not breathing and did not have a pulse, Vergin said.

Officers and emergency service personnel went into the house and found the girl in a family-room area lying on a futon mattress on the floor, Vergin said.

"The mother and father were praying over her at that time," Vergin said.

The girl was pronounced dead at St. Clare's Hospital and through an autopsy it was determined she had diabetic ketoacidosis, Vergin said.

"The doctor who did the autopsy and others have said she would have been showing signs for about six months, and she would have been symptomatic, very thirsty, lots of urination, dry skin for the last week," he said. "They felt she would have been quite ill."

Vergin said that during an interview with detectives the parents said "they believed even though they knew she was ill, they had enough faith and prayer that God would heal her."

"They said it was the course of action they would take again," Vergin said. "They firmly believe even if they had taken her to a doctor, if this was the time God had chosen for her to die, she would die regardless of medical interference."

"This is not their defense, they aren't crazy people," Vergin added.
Difficult issues

Vergin said the death of the girl brings up difficult issues.

"At what point do religious beliefs take over for medical help? And the flip of the coin is at what point are the parents responsible for the health and welfare of their children," he said. "These people truly believed their prayer and faith would heal their daughter. They have no question about that."

Police and courts have grappled with such issues for decades.

Norman Fost, professor of bioethics and pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, said the First Amendment to the Constitution gives citizens the right to practice religion.

"A Jehovah's Witness can refuse life-saving blood transfusion based on their religious belief," he said. "They're protected. But they can't refuse it for their child . . . the First Amendment extends to their own behavior but not their children's."

Under Wisconsin statutes, parents can't be accused of abuse or neglect if the sole reason for the injury is that they relied on prayer, Fost said. But Robyn S. Shapiro, an attorney who is professor of bioethics and director of the Bioethics Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said abuse or neglect can include "failure to appropriately respond or supply medical care to your kid."

"What else did they do, what else did they know about, what did they see, why didn't they figure it out?" Shapiro said.

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Pastor gets 4 years for sex assault on woman

The Toronto Star

March 27, 2008

by Peter Small

A Toronto pastor who sexually assaulted and deliberately impregnated a parishioner, threatening her with evil spirits unless she yielded to his demands, has been sentenced to four years in prison.

Rev. Frank Seeko Lawrence "grossly abused his position as pastor and spiritual healer by threatening a vulnerable and trusting young woman," Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba said yesterday.

On Jan. 10, a jury convicted the 59-year-old man of sexually assaulting the victim, while acquitting him of assaulting and threatening to kill her. Jurors also acquitted the father of 11 of sexually assaulting another woman by whom he also fathered a child.

Belobaba ruled that the jury's verdict means the pastor of Toronto Mount Zion Revival Church is guilty of fondling and touching, as well as five to 10 instances of forced sexual intercourse, between April and December 2003, when the victim was 24. The Toronto-born woman, who cannot be named, gave birth to a girl as a result.

"He fully intended to make her pregnant and he succeeded in doing so," the judge said. Belobaba quoted Lawrence as once asking the woman, "What is taking you so long to get pregnant?" and warning her, "If you're using any birth control, the spirits will know."

The victim's mother brought her to Lawrence for spiritual healing when she was 17. He gave her "spiritual baths," for which he charged $150, to get rid of evil spirits.

In early 2003, she argued with her mother, left home and began renting a room in Lawrence's house.

A month later the sexual assaults began. "He took advantage of her belief in curses ... and he threatened her with evil spirits if she didn't acquiesce to his sexual advances," the judge said.

Outside court, defence lawyer Anthony Robbins said he would be seeking bail today pending appeal. "My client is innocent. I cannot comment on the reasonableness of the sentence," he said.

By way of mitigation, the judge noted that Lawrence has no criminal record and is much loved and admired by his parishioners, to whom he is "generous and compassionate." Nine female and two male supporters were in court yesterday.

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26 Mar 2008

Wisconsin to true believers: Go ahead, kill your kids

The Daily Page - Wisconsin

March 25, 2008

UW instructor Shawn Francis Peters' new book looks at when the law fails children

by Bill Lueders

Shawn Francis Peters, who teaches writing and U.S. history at the UW-Madison, writes about the dangerous intersection of Religion and Law. His three books have dealt with thorny challenges to religious freedom -- the refusal of Jehovah's Witnesses to salute the flag or serve in the military (Judging Jehovah's Witnesses, 2000); the refusal of the Amish to educate their kids past grade school (The Yoder Case, 2003); and, most recently, the faith-based refusal of some parents to provide their kids with medical assistance (When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children and the Law, 2008).

When Prayer Fails (Oxford University Press) is a compelling and often shocking book. There is the anecdote of the little girl who died from a tumor in her eye that enlarged to the size of her head; investigators found blood smears in her home from where she had apparently dragged her tiny body along walls. There are cases of children who died from choking on food or ailments that could have been easily treated with a shot of insulin or dose of antibiotics. Some true believers have even refused treatment from communicable diseases, putting others at risk.

The book makes unflattering mention of Wisconsin, which has -- wouldn’t you know it? -- an especially backward law that protects the proponents of faith-based medical neglect.

State statute 948.03(6) provides an exemption from the law against failing to act to protect children from bodily harm for what is referred to as "Treatment through prayer." The statute says: "A person is not guilty of an offense under this section solely because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing in accordance with the religious method of healing ... in lieu of medical or surgical treatment."


As Peters’ notes, the statute drew some attention in 2003, when a two-year-old autistic child in Milwaukee was crushed to death during an attempted exorcism. The practitioner was convicted, albeit of a lesser offense than what some felt was appropriate. Afterwards, Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann urged state lawmakers to remove this exemption, lest it lead to what he called "mischief." Wisconsin's do-little Legislature has not done so.

Peters, in an interview, says the Milwaukee case "illuminated the fact that the law was there." He suspects it found its way into the statute books through the efforts of Christian Scientists, as in other states with similar exemptions.

In an email, Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard says he thinks there have been cases where doctors and hospitals, "concerned that asserted religious beliefs of parents might result in physical harm to an ailing child," have asked the courts to step in. But "no one can recall" a case where a faith-based refusal to seek treatment was presented as "potential criminal child neglect."

Blanchard then explains the high threshold such a case would have to meet: "In the criminal child neglect area, we look for evidence of criminal thinking, not just inattention or momentary lapses in judgment. So, for example, if we had a baby death due to failure to thrive or treatable illness, and there was a claim that religious belief prevented the caretaker from seeking treatment, we would certainly ask police to be alert to any facts suggesting that religion was being used only as an after the fact excuse or ruse. That would of course be criminal thinking. If on the other hand the religious belief appeared genuine and there were no other signs of abuse or neglect, it might be difficult for us to say a case had merit as a criminal child neglect prosecution."

In other words, if you kill or maim your kids because you truly believe they need prayer more than medical attention, there's not much authorities around here will do about it.

"The way the statute is worded, I think he's right," says Peters. "The statute says if you treat a child by religious means, you're not going to be prosecuted." He adds, somewhat superfluously, that he thinks the statute should be written differently: "I think my book sort of illustrates the perils of that."

And how.

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Jehovah's Witnesses elders must testify in Murrieta molestation case, judge rules

The Press-Enterprise - California

March 25, 2006

by Tammy McCoy

Leaders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation must reveal what a Murrieta man suspected of molesting two girls told them, despite their claims the conversation were protected by clergy confidentiality, a judge ruled Tuesday.

The congregation leaders must testify in the man's trial on child-molestation charges, said Riverside County Judge F. Paul Dickerson.

The defense attorney says he will appeal.

Experts say the ruling raises compelling legal questions.

"It is an interesting legal issue that does need to be clarified by the court," said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

She said an appeals court could decide if the law should extend beyond a traditional confession into this type of hearing.

California law protects statements made to clergy members who are required by their faith's practices to keep them secret.

In his ruling, Dickerson said testimony from Elder Andrew Sinay showed the Jehovah's Witnesses' judicial committee system is not designed to keep information confidential.

Dickerson said this was not a case where Gilbert Simental went to the elders seeking forgiveness or guidance.

"This was the opposite," he said. "It was more like a third-party investigation into immoral conduct."

In this case, the judge said, the elders' duty was to determine guilt and to protect the congregation, not to keep the communications under wraps.

"It's an investigative, fact-finding body without regard for confidentiality," he said. "This was a tribunal designed to protect the congregation."

Dickerson's ruling came in response to prosecutor Burke Strunsky's request to force the elders to testify. Jury selection is already under way in Simental's trial at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley.

"This case highlights the perils of interpreting this privilege in an overly broad fashion," Strunsky said.

Simental, 49, is charged with molesting two of his daughter's friends when they came to his home for sleepovers between July 2005 and July 2006, according to court papers. The girls are sisters who were 9 and 10 at the time, the records show.

The Press-Enterprise does not publish the names of minors who are believed to have been victims of sexual abuse.

After the ruling, defense attorney Miles Clark said he will appeal Dickerson's decision.

"My client relied on the elders to keep his statements confidential," Clark said.

Jehovah's Witnesses should not be treated differently from members of other faiths simply because their practices are different, he said.

Clark said Simental's statements to the judicial committee should be treated the way the statements a Roman Catholic makes to a priest in a confessional are.

During the hearing at the Southwest Justice Center, prosecutor Strunsky questioned Sinay about the congregation's practices and how information obtained during a judicial committee is handled.

Sinay said they share information obtained during judicial committee proceedings with the Jehovah's Witnesses office in New York and with committees that are called on in an appellate capacity.

Strunsky also questioned the parents of the two girls.

The girls' parents testified that after the children came to their mother with their allegations, she met with Sinay and Elder John Vaughn, who agreed they would inform the couple of the outcome of the inquiry.

The girls' mother testified that Sinay later told her that Simental had made a full confession.

While Sinay did not provide her with a verbatim confession, she said Sinay did tell her that Simental had confessed.

Clark asked whether Sinay ever said that Simental had confessed to molesting her daughters.

The woman said he did not use the word "molest" during their conversation.

The girls' father testified that during a meeting with Sinay, Vaughn and another elder, he was also told that Simental confessed during a judicial committee meeting.

The elders also told the father that Simental had never done this before and was no danger to the community, he said.

If convicted of all charges, Simental faces 45 years to life in prison.

Simental is charged with a similar allegation in another criminal case. That case is currently awaiting trial.

He is free on $1 million bail.

Staff writer Jessica Logan contributed to this report.

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Kids rescued from ‘cult’

Cebu Daily News - Philippines
March 26, 2008

By Rene F. Alima

CEBU CITY, Philippines - They holed up inside a mountain cottage for five days in Carmen town, starting Holy Thursday to wait for the “end of the world.”

Members of the Dios Amahan cult, who brought their children along to await the “final judgment,” had to be pulled out of the house by policemen on Tuesday, ending almost a day of negotiation.

At least 24 persons, 10 of them children, were rescued.

A worried father, accompanied by policemen, came to rescue his children, especially his one-year-old son, after his wife, the leader of the cult, refused to release them.

After hours of pleading, Edilberto Sayson, 43, ripped a hole in the amakan wall of the cottage where his children and 21 other members had been staying since Holy Thursday.

Personnel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Carmen later took custody of the 10 children while the adults were brought to the police station for questioning.

Jessica, a 39-year-old homemaker, said they don't base their beliefs on the Bible or revere religious icons although they do make the sign of the cross like Catholics.

Cebu City Councilor Gerardo Carillo, DSWD-7 legal counsel, said the children would undergo medical checkup by a team from the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7).

He said he would wait for the report from the municipal social worker and the finding of the DOH before deciding on what legal action to take against Jessica and her group.

Jessica heads the Dios Amahan, which was founded in the 1990s in Mandaue City by her brother-in-law Billy Robusto whom members described as the “best faith healer.”

When Billy died, wife Eleonor was expected to take over. But Jessica assumed as head of the group because the members would readily follow her.

Last week, said Jessica, she received a “message from God” that the end of the world was near and that in order to be saved, the members had to stay inside the cottage and pray.

The house was owned by the cult founder Billy in Sitio (district) Bito, Barangay (village) Baring, Carmen, about 41.3 kilometers north of Cebu City.

Jessica and her three children, aged 17, 14 and one, arrived in Sitio Bito, an interior village located four kilometers from the main road, about 9 a.m. on March 19, Holy Wednesday.

Edilberto, an operator of a printing press, stayed behind in Mandaue City because he had work that day.

But Jessica warned him that he had to be inside the house before 3 a.m. of Holy Thursday. Otherwise, he could not get inside the house and would not be able to see his family, said Edilberto.

He said he arrived at Sitio Bito about 12:30 a.m. of Holy Thursday. His wife allowed him to get inside the house.

They stayed inside the one-room cottage which was about eight meters by four meters wide.

Edilberto said there were 10 children, including his sons, and 14 adults, including Jessica, Eleonor and their brother Angelo.

Also inside the room was a friend from Ginatilan town who worked as a janitor in a hospital in Cebu City and his family.

Jessica, however, did not allow her parents Milagros and Pablo Pasaje and two other members to get inside the house because they were not able to memorize the prayer of “Dios Amahan.”

Milagros said she was once a member of the group when Billy was the leader. But since he died, she added she noticed that the policy of the group had changed.

“Dili na gyod maayo ang panghuna-huna sa akong anak, maayo pa man ang iyang sitwastyon una pa sila misod sa balay pero karon lain na kaayo ang iyang pang huna-huna (My daughter is no longer in a proper state of mind. It was better before she got inside the house unlike now),” Milagros said.

Inside the house, the group prayed every three hours starting 6 a.m.

On Good Friday, Edilberto decided to leave because he had to report for work.
When he returned to the house in the evening of Easter Sunday, his wife would not let him in. He was told that he was afflicted by “the sins of the world.”

He pleaded with his wife but Jessica refused to release even their youngest son. On Monday, Edilberto went to the police.

Policemen led by Chief Inspector Carlos Reyes Jr. went to the house to plead with Jessica to release the children.

Angelo, speaking through the amakan wall told the police that the members, including Edilberto's two older sons, were not being held against their will.

The two were even angry at their father and called him “Judas Escariote.”

Negotiations continued until Tuesday when DSWD personnel headed by Maricho Maningo arrived to help convince Jessica to release the children.

The room was foul smelling and humid because both the door and the window were shut.

About 11:30 a.m. Jessica allowed the children to briefly go out of the house to show to the DSWD personnel and the police that they were not harmed. The children went back inside the house about an hour later.

Edilberto, who returned to the area at 2:30 p.m., again pleaded to his wife to release his one-year-old son. He kept knocking on the door until Jessica, Eleonor and Angelo went out of the house to face him.

They said he could no longer get inside because he was deemed unworthy after leaving the house on Good Friday. But they told him that he could visit his children occasionally.

About 3 p.m., the three went inside the house, apparently to pray.

Edilberto did not stop. He continued knocking on the door and calling out the names of his sons.

When he heard his one-year-old son crying, he ripped open the bamboo walling of the cottage to get a look inside.

The square-meter hole was just enough to expose the people inside.

Eleonor and Jessica started shouting angrily while others dared the police to get inside the house.

The two sons of Edilberto threw water on his face.

“Salamat nga imo ming gi-pa eskwela, pero di na namo ma-antos ang kalisod sa kalibutan (Thank you for sending us to school but we could no longer bear the sufferings of the world),” said his 17-year-old son.

Some members threw a container of urine at the policemen.

After an hour of negotiations, the police forced their way in to rescue the children.

They found cooked rice and noodles on the table. Beside it were two containers, one full of urine and the other of human feces.

The police were able to bring out the children and the adults, who no longer resisted.

Jessica later told reporters that they were only waiting for the message from “the Most High (labaw maka-gagahom)” because judgment day for the living and the dead is almost near.

“Nakita namo sa palibot nga ang dautan nag libot-libot aron ilogon ang among gi-ampingan nga pag-ampo maong wa mi mag-gawas (We see that evil is lurking around to take our prayers. That is why we did not get out),” she added.

All 24 of them were brought to the DSWD center in the poblacion (town).

There the children were given bread and water. The adults, on the other hand, were taken to the police station for questioning.

The DSWD-7 said it would file child abuse charges against Jessica if investigation showed that the children's health was affected by their five-day ordeal.

Councilor Carillo said they could not do anything with the adult members of the cult if nobody files a complaint.

He cited the freedom to exercise one’s religion as long as their actions don’t violate the law.

“They are free to worship even to Satan (as long as they will not harm the children),” he said.

/With reports from Correspondent Chris Ligan

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25 Mar 2008

Jewish family sues Jamaican reform school for troubled teens

Daily News - New York

March 25, 2008


A battle has erupted in the Orthodox Jewish community over a Brooklyn teenager sent by his prominent family to a behavior boot camp accused of terrifying abuse.

Isaac Hersh, 16, has been trapped since last summer at Tranquility Bay, a reform school on the island of Jamaica with a soothing name - and harsh discipline, according to the lawyer hired to try to get him out.

"It's a modern-day concentration camp," said Maryland lawyer Joshua Ambush.

Isaac's estranged parents sent him to the boot camp last year after luring him back to Brooklyn from his new home in Texas, court papers claim.

Isaac's twin brother, Sol, is panicked he's next to go.

"He's very worried about his brother. He's very worried about himself, too," said a friend of the family who asked to remain anonymous.

Tranquility Bay offers the promise of turning bad boys into focused achievers, but the walled-off camp with barred windows has been called a nightmare.

Children have been beaten, forced to eat their vomit and made to stand in painful contortions for hours, according to a separate suit filed in Utah by former students against private boot camps, including Tranquility Bay.

The case has so riled up members of the normally insular Orthodox community that several are taking the rare step of publicizing Isaac's situation.

One one side is Isaac's informal Texas foster family, who are also Orthodox, and their supporters, who prompted a nonprofit to file suit in Washington last week on Isaac's behalf.

They claim he was lured to Brooklyn with the promise of a job, handcuffed and thrown into a van that took him to the boot camp as he cried and begged to be released, the suit says.

On the other side are the teen's father, Michael Hersh - CEO of Brooklyn's huge Orthodox volunteer ambulance service, Hatzalah - and his wife, Miriam.

"Hatzalah will carefully monitor these proceedings, taking into account the seriousness of the allegations," the organization said in a statement.

The couple has a prominent supporter in Rabbi Aaron Schecter, head of Brooklyn's tight-knit Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, according to the suit.

It is unclear what prompted the parents to send Isaac to another country. Michael Hersh did not return a call for comment.

They had a troubled relationship for years, according to the suit.

Isaac, one of eight children, was sent to schools in Virginia and Long Island before the family moved to Israel in 2002, where the parents were accused of abusing Isaac, the suit says.

From there, the boys went to live with families in Texas, although the parents never lost custody.

"They're healthy, good, normal teenage boys," said the family friend.

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Oregon prosecutors review girl's death, faith-healing law

The Associated Press - March 22, 2008

OREGON CITY, Ore. (AP) — Prosecutors are reviewing the death of a 15-month-old girl a medical examiner says could have been saved if she had been treated with antibiotics.

The Oregonian newspaper quoted Dr. Christopher Young, a deputy state medical examiner, as saying that Ava Worthington died March 2 at home from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and infection.

He said both conditions could have been prevented or treated with antibiotics, and the child's breathing was further compromised by a benign cyst that had never been medically addressed and could have been removed from her neck, The Oregonian reported Saturday.

If prosecuted, the paper said, Ava Worthington's parents would be the first members of Oregon City's Followers of Christ, a fundamentalist Christian denomination, to face charges for failing to seek medical treatment for a gravely ill child.

"We are reviewing the case, and our investigation is progressing," said Greg Horner, Clackamas County chief deputy district attorney. He did not release the parents' names.

When The Associated Press called the number listed for the church Saturday, the person who answered hung up.

Child-abuse detectives recently referred investigative findings to the prosecutors, who are evaluating the case in light of a law passed in 1999 after several faith-healing deaths of children.

"This is the first time that they could be taking a shot at interpreting the law," said state Senate President Peter Courtney, who supported the bill.

It eliminated Oregon's "spiritual-healing defense" in cases of second-degree manslaughter, first- and second-degree criminal mistreatment and nonpayment of child support.

The Legislature passed the bill after months of debate over religious freedom, parental rights and the state's responsibility to protect children.

The Followers of Christ Church came to Oregon early in the 20th century. According to church tradition, when members become ill, fellow worshippers pray and anoint them with oil. Former members say those who seek modern medical remedies are ostracized.

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Former Clinton pastor sentenced to three years in prison for inappropriately touching a 7-year-old girl

Utica Observer-Dispatch

February 29, 2008



When the Rev. William Procanick put his hand on the Bible during his sex-abuse trial in Oneida County Court earlier this year, he swore to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But as the former Clinton pastor was sentenced Friday to three years in prison for inappropriately touching a 7-year-old girl at his home last March, Judge Michael L. Dwyer said Procanick sacrificed his honesty the day he testified.

“As a minister of God, you got on the stand and you lied,” Dwyer told Procanick, the 54-year-old former pastor of Resurrection Assembly of God church on Kirkland Avenue.

A jury found Procanick guilty Jan. 22 of first-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

Dwyer said he believes Procanick was being honest when he told the girl's mother in a recorded phone call that he was wrong to caress the girl's body while she was trying to fall asleep.

However, Procanick instead testified in court that he did nothing wrong other than spend time alone with the girl, who was a friend of the family, Dwyer noted.

If Procanick had accepted responsibility from the beginning instead of straying from the truth, Dwyer said, Procanick would likely have faced a lesser punishment and possibly avoided jail time.

“The truth would have set you free,” Dwyer said. “You had a chance to be a man and say, 'I made a mistake.' But as always, the cover-up is much worse than the original crime.”

Procanick's defense attorney, George Aney, noted that Procanick still received a sentence less than the maximum, which was up to seven years in prison.

“It's considerably less than the maximum, but considerably more than he deserved,” Aney said.

Aney also took issue with how Dwyer and the victim's mother used harsh language to attack Procanick's Christian values.

“You are just an evil man,” the victim's mother said Friday in court. “You lied, and you had your wife lie. And all these people who showed up in court to support you, did you lie to them, too?”

The Observer-Dispatch does not identify sex-abuse victims and their families.
The victim's mother said her daughter is still waking up scared at night because of what happened, and she continues to see a therapist. The young girl also feels that everybody is mad at her, the mother said.

Assistant District Attorney Doug DeMarche Jr. then read a note written by the girl, who did not appear in court Friday.

“Bill made me sad and scared,” DeMarche read. “I thought I did something wrong, because I trusted him.”

Dwyer gave Procanick an opportunity to speak in court, but Procanick had nothing to say to the victim and her family.

Aney did not plan to speak in court, he told Dwyer, but he felt obligated to respond to what the victim's mother said about Procanick and his wife.

“I believe she shows her own lack of Christianity by referring to people as liars,” Aney said.

After the sentencing, Aney further commented about what was said in court.

“I respect Judge Dwyer for what he said this morning, but I have to say I disagreed with him,” Aney said. “I have every right to express my feelings, and my feelings are that we are not permitted to call anybody a liar. That's a judgment someone higher than I makes.”

DeMarche, however, said he can understand why the girl's mother spoke of Procanick in such harsh terms.

“She had a lot of faith and trust in Mr. Procanick, and he violated that trust,” DeMarche said. “I think she's justified in being angry.”

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24 Mar 2008

Polygamists' secrets laid bare

Calgary Herald

March 23, 2008

Book review by Catherine Ford

The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in a Polygamous Mormon Sect by Daphne Bramham

(Random House Canada, $32.95, 432 pages)

- - - -

The fatal flaw in polygamy is arithmetic, writes Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham. Given that a society normally produces as many boys as girls, what does a polygamous community do with all the extra men? Kick them out, of course, preferably before they present a challenge for the charms of girls their own age.

But the story of these "lost boys" is incidental to the focus of The Secret Lives Of Saints, although they are the collateral damage of the tale. The real damage is the fate of young, pubescent, nubile girls. This is one society where protection would come in the form of physical ugliness.

Bramham is unsparing in her criticism for the "religion" of fundamentalism, for the law, the legislatures concerned and, ultimately, the lies that underpin the promotion of polygamy as some sort of normal, albeit alternative, lifestyle. She is scathing in her condemnation of the notion that it is appropriate to marry off girls barely in their teens to men old enough to be, and in some cases are, their own grandfathers.

The flaw in this book is also, curiously, its greatest strength: the complicated and complex research laid out in detail to take a reader unfamiliar with Mormonism through its history and background. Without this exhaustive and exhausting outline, a reader could not grasp how a perfectly acceptable religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, could spawn a perverted fundamentalist offshoot that condones child abuse, hatred of homosexuals, racism and flouts the laws of both the U.S. and Canada under the excuse of religious freedom.

The research and Bramham's patient laying out of the facts goes a long way to explaining how a normal society ignores the illegal -- and immoral -- exploitation of children practiced by a messianic cult. As Bramham writes, governments have consciously chosen the path of "let's not talk about it."

Just because closed communities like Bountiful, B.C., keep themselves apart from mainstream society, doesn't mean the residents can do exactly as they please. "Religious beliefs cannot override a person's Charter-guaranteed rights to life and security of the person," writes a B.C. judge.

At the heart of this book is the battle for supremacy between the so-called "prophets" -- Winston Blackmore and Warren Jeffs. Bramham is diligent in her portrayal of the obscenity (my word, not hers) of marrying off girls as young as 13 to old goats (again, my words) already "caring for" a harem of fertile women.

Nobody escapes Bramham's rightful and righteous criticism: not the B.C. government or its American counterparts, politicians, the justice system and even the Canadian public for turning a blind eye. The Secret Lives of Saints is astoundingly well researched and scrupulously exact. It is an earnest, well-meaning and hard-hitting book designed to infuriate any reader.

Curiously, though, the very minutiae that makes it so also deadens the effect. True, we come to know the history of the Mormon religion, why polygamy is so insidious, the names and ages and astounding numbers of children produced at a prodigious rate by the array of "sister-wives," but the depth of understanding and insight into why gets lost in the mix. The biggest question is why do Canadian governments put up with this blatant abuse?

We know the how -- keep girls uneducated, inculcated and away from outside influence, do all this in the name of God, heaven and prophesy and give them no opportunity of salvation except through their shared husbands, subject them to unending work and never-ending pregnancy and child-rearing and, to quote the Bountiful slogan: encourage them to "keep sweet."

What we don't know is why we assiduously ignore it and allow our politicians to do likewise.

Catherine Ford is a retired Herald columnist.

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