Criminal mistreatment conviction of faith-healing father upheld

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In State of Oregon v. Worthington, (OR App., July 11, 2012), an Oregon appellate court upheld the conviction of a member of the Followers of Christ Church for second degree criminal mistreatment in the death of his 15-month old daughter. Because of his religious belief in faith healing, defendant did not seek medical attention for his daughter who died of bacterial pneumonia and a blood infection associated with a large cystic mass that compromised her body’s immune defenses. The court rejected defendant’s argument that because of the state constitution’s free exercise protections, he could be convicted only if the state established that he knew his conduct would bring about his daughter’s death. Causing death is not an element of the criminal mistreatment charge. Defendant was acquitted by the jury on the separate manslaughter charge.  His wife was acquitted on both manslaughter and mistreatment charges. (See prior related posting.)