Faith-healing parents lose appeal of convictions for baby death

There is an update to this story from 2011, the Hickman’s appeal was dismissed.

The Oregon Supreme Court upheld the manslaughter convictions and prison sentences of a couple whose newborn baby died after they chose faith healing over medical treatment.

Source: Courthouse News Service

A doctor testified during the original trial that if the Hickmans had promptly sought conventional  medical treatment, there was a “99 percent chance” that baby David would have survived. The child was born at home two months premature and weighed under 4 lbs. He died nine hours later.

The Hickmans were members of the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City, a US faith-healing sect that has a long record of child deaths.

While there is NO doubt that the parents are grieved over their child’s death and did not intend for him to die, their conviction to their religious beliefs killed him. With the original decision and now the rejection of appeal, Oregon sends an immensely strong message to the Followers and other faith-healing subscribers that the state will not stand for such treatment of children. The church must change or it will die itself.


Originally published 12 Sept 2011 “Another faith-healing death of a child puts Oregon City parents on trial (Updated- Parents Convicted, sentenced to jail)”

Another faith-healing death of a child puts Oregon City parents on trial

When the trial of Dale and Shannon Hickman begins this week in Clackamas County, the curtain again rises on a familiar tragedy, one centered on the death of a child and on parents whose unwavering faith in divine healing may lead them to prison.

The Hickmans are members of the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City faith-healing church. The congregation has a long history of children dying from curable conditions because parents rejected medical care in favor of spiritual treatments.

The Hickmans are charged with second-degree manslaughter.

Credit: @Blue_wode on Twitter

Oregon enacted a law in direct response to this religious sect that “eliminates spiritual treatment as a defense against all homicide charges and subject parents to mandatory sentencing under Oregon’s Measure 11.”

Yet, the couple’s lawyer contends the government should not be allowed to intrude into “this sacred private sphere the family is entitled to.”

Ore. couple found guilty in faith-healing trial

The Hickmans’ conviction on second-degree manslaughter charges typically requires a mandatory minimum sentence of six years in prison. But because of a religious exemption in state law at time of the crime, the couple likely will face no more than 18 months in prison and a $250,000 fine…

Update Nov. 1: Dale and Shannon Hickman receive 6-year sentence, harshest yet for faith-healing church

A Clackamas County judge stunned a courtroom packed with supporters of Dale and Shannon Hickman Monday when he sentenced the couple, members of an Oregon City faith-healing church, to prison for six years and three months. “This is a sentence you have justly earned,” said Presiding Judge Robert D. Herndon. He called incarceration “a modest penalty for causing the death of a vulnerable person. … This was so preventable.”

  3 comments for “Faith-healing parents lose appeal of convictions for baby death

  1. Dave
    September 13, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    Pretty disgusting that killing a child is a “sacred private sphere. . .” that people are apparently entitled to, according to their lawyer. I hope this defense falls flat on its face as it well should. And I applaud Oregon for enacting Measure 11. I sincerely hope it holds up in court.

  2. PJ
    December 4, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    The Christian Scientists have been testing the limits of the law in Massachusetts for decades. OR has a lot of precedent on its side. Courts tend not to excuse a child’s preventable death for the sake of ideas the child is too young to understand.

  3. Eric
    October 15, 2015 at 7:31 AM

    It would be intetesting to hear / see if they could go after the church itself instead of just the parents. I was shocked during the Catholic Church abuse scandal that they didn’t bring charges against the church itself. I would think it would be easy to use RICO / organized crime laws against them.

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