Couple Who Rejected Modern Medicine In Favor Of Prayer Pleads Guilty In Death Of Sick Daughter

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

An Oregon couple pleaded guilty Monday to negligent homicide in the case of their infant daughter, for whom they eschewed medical treatment in favor of prayer.

Travis Lee Mitchell and Sarah Mitchell failed to seek medical treatment for their premature, twin infant daughter Ginnifer in 2017 who struggled to breathe for hours after being birthed at home and subsequently died, due to their church’s belief in relying solely on faith healing without modern medicine. Theirs is the fifth criminal case in the Followers of Christ Church of a child dying due to parents refusing to seek medical treatment. (RELATED: Nigerian Witch Doctor Tries To Prove Charms Are ‘Bulletproof’ And Dies)

The court sentenced the Mitchells to nearly seven years in prison, with credit for the 13 months they have spent in custody thus far, and three years of post prison supervision. They have also had supervised visits with their surviving infant daughter, Evelyn. Evelyn also struggled to breathe after birth, but a deputy medical examiner ensured her survival after being called to the house in response to Ginnifer’s death, according to The Associated Press.

The couple not only pleaded guilty before at least 50 supporters of the church, but in an unprecedented move also wrote a statement, read aloud before the court by their lawyer, admonishing members of the church to seek medical treatment for their children when necessary.

“Everyone in the church should always seek adequate medical care for our children,” the statement read, according to The Oregonian.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Bryan Brock lauded the couple’s guilty plea and their statement, calling it a “landmark resolution.”

“These are senseless and avoidable deaths, and we keep asking ourselves what will it take” to persuade members of the church to seek medical care for their children, Brock said.

Brock added that he hoped the case would make clear to members of Followers of Christ Church that they should “seek medical attention and prayer. They’re not mutually exclusive.”

The church has about 1,000 members in Oregon and Idaho. It is not officially affiliated with any denomination, though their theology is influenced by Pentecostalism. Members of the church hold to a myopic interpretation of Christian scripture that eschews the aid of all modern medical advances for people and that asserts that a person’s death, in any circumstance, is willed by God.

Curiously, while the couple was familiar with a similar case of child death in their church and did not seek medical attention for their twin infant daughters, they did seek medications, vaccinations, and wellness checks for their dog and cat, according to prosecutors.

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