We didn’t kill him, God chose not to save him

The General Assembly Church of the First Born is a group of churches whose faith healing practices have placed them at odds with the law in more than one instance.

The latest instance comes from Washington State where Gregory and Garnet Swezey  were charged and plead not-guilty to the death of their 17 year old son Zachery. In 2009, he died of acute appendicitis in 2009 because his parents chose to pray rather than seek medical attention.

According to charging documents, Gregory Swezey told Okanogan County Sheriff’s detectives that he knew his son would die 10 to 15 minutes before Zachery passed away, and did not call an ambulance. He also told detectives that he asked Zachery if he wanted to go to the hospital, and his son declined.

They are members of the aforementioned church which has a history of promoting faith healing and refusing medical care. A 15 year old indoctrinated by his parents cannot be said to be able to make an informed choice. The Rick Ross Institute has a long list of offensives by this church.

Six children in state custody
Parents charged in death of teen
Test results still pending in Creswell teen’s death
Creswell teen’s death under investigation
Faith-based healing reviewed
Woman who relied on faith healing charged with neglect after son dies
Questions still linger over Carlton boy’s death
Midwife ordered to stop delivering babies 
Family Says Church Allowed Woman To Die Following Childbirth 
Jury indicts midwife in June death of newborn 
Indiana Couple Sentenced in Baby’s Death 
Couple would use prayer again 
Baby deaths don’t shake church’s faith 
New baby death in faith-healing congregation 
Jury convicts parents in baby’s death 
Father Testifies in Baby Death Trial 
Jurors hear father’s thoughts on care 
Trial Set To Begin For Couple Accused Of Letting Baby Die 
Court dates set in case involving infant’s death 
Church supports couple who denied newborn medical treatment 
Parents indicted in baby’s death 
Faith-Healing Parents May Face Charges After Baby Dies 
Girl’s death leads to questions of belief 
Faith-Healing Church Linked to Several Deaths, Says Coroner 
Deputies examine infant’s death 
Infant dies after parents reject aid 
Church elder: Faith cures sick people, not doctors 
Colo. Couple Sentenced to Probation 
Parents plead guilty in faith-healing death 
Faith in divine healing unshaken by deaths, law 
Owens signs faith-healing bill 
Senate Panel Backs Faith-Healing Ban When Kids At Risk 
Charges follow faith-healing death 
Christian Scientists oppose measure 
Freedom of Religion or State-Sanctioned Child Abuse? 
Colorado Children’s Deaths Rekindle Debate on Religion 
Infection death ruled homicide 
Prayed-over girl died of untreated diabetes 
Faith healer parents probed in child death 
Death of teen in sect probed 
Born to Believe 
Parents who relied on faith healing are cleared in baby’s death 
Prosecutors contemplate charges in infant’s death
Church holds fast to healing beliefs 
Clifton infant’s death won’t be ruled homicide 
Death raises church-state questions anew 
Baby dies after medical care withheld
Man who let his son die loses appeal

There are many jurisdictions who have removed the defence of religious belief from criminal cases, and Canada does not have an exemption from prosecution for religious belief, although occasionally deaths still occur. A 2011 report for the Canadian Medical Association examined the issue.

An investigation led by Asser published in Pediatrics found that between 1975 and 1995, 172 children died following faith healing, 140 from easily curable or treatable medical conditions  Pediatrics 1998;101:625-9). In one case, a two-year-old girl choked on a banana and showed signs of life for an hour before dying, while her parents and other adults simply prayed.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, most states had faith healing exemptions in their child abuse and neglect laws. Nineteen states still allow religious defences for felony crimes against children.

The primary offenders in Canada are the Jehovah Witnesses, and fortunately deaths are rare.

However, while children of Jehovah’s Witnesses have died as a result of parents’ refusals to approve blood transfusions, the deaths often occur during the time it takes doctors to prove to the courts that transfusions are medically necessary.

These incidences only itemize the deaths of children due to preventing medical care. There is no way to document the non-lethal harm to children or the impact on adult believers.

Christian Science is another group well known for their avoidance of modern medicine. Their approach, however, is a bit more complex, the advocate spirituality as the first choice, but weasel a bit on more effective care.

It’s up to each person who practices Christian Science to choose the form of health care he or she wants. Many Christian Scientists decide to pray first about every challenge—including health issues—and find it effective. Many health care professionals today are recognizing options outside of conventional medicine. Christian Scientists recognize and respect the interests of medical professionals and don’t oppose them. We all care about the preventative and curative aspects of health care. Like all systems of healing, the track record for Christian Science isn’t perfect. But, over 80,000 Christian Science healings have been published throughout the past 140 years, including severe cases.

I wonder how many of those ‘healings’ would stand up to critical examination.

John Clague, a spokesman for the Christian Science church in Oregon, said he supported the new law because of the high number of child deaths in the Followers of Christ Church. When asked about the 28 deceased Christian Science children in the
Pediatrics investigation, he lamented their deaths, saying that “unlike some other churches, we don’t say these deaths are God’s will.” He claimed his church leaders expect their followers to seek medical care for their children when faith healing “isn’t
working” or in situations where a child may die for lack of care.

But the Christian Science church “continues to support religious accommodations for the responsible practice of spiritual healing,” says Adam Scherr, the church’s national
media coordinator.

Again, it is impossible to determine how much death and suffering has been caused by delays in reaching out for medical care after God hasn’t been in a  healing mood.

It is easy enough to criticize these relativity religious groups that mostly lie on the fringes of the mainstream for their concepts of faith healing. However, we are also surrounded by such charlatans as Benny Hinn, Peter Popoff; such religious scams as Lourdes, and practitioners of Chinese Traditional Medicine. New scams based upon unproven treatments and diets are arising almost daily. They all have two things in common with religious healing–they are based upon faith, and they don’t work.


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2 Responses to We didn’t kill him, God chose not to save him

  1. hbyt says:

    I believe God heals, so pray and go to the hospital. I had a doctor who was a Christian he had a sign in his office, “God heals, I collect the fee.”
    In Gayle Erwin’s book “The Spirit Style” he relates a conversation with one of these men who allowed his child to die and this man realized two things “The first lesson was that God was a God of reality and not fantasy. When he healed, he healed; when he didn’t he didn’t. His action could bear examination.” The second was “He learned that love is greater than faith. He and his wife had acted in faith toward their son, but they had not acted in love. They discovered that the thrill of a moment of faith-action was cheap compared to the long-term action of a loving heart. “There abides faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.”” (The Spirit style, pages 191, 192)

    Thanks for the article,


  2. Prayer may make you feel better, but it really doesn’t do anything towards healing. Your examples above demonstrate the means by which a person may comfort themselves, but says absolutely nothing about the healing power of the supernatural.

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