Oregon faith healers plead guilty to negligent homicide

by Michal Ann McArthur

Last December, Austin Sprout, 16, of Creswell, Oregon, died of a burst appendix because his parents did not seek medical help for him. On September 18,  Russel and Brandi Bellew (his biological mother) pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and were sentenced to five years’ probation. The family belongs to the General Assembly and Church of the First Born, a religious group that practices faith healing as taught in James 5:14-16. Rather than seeking medical treatment for their son, they anointed him with oil and prayed over him. Shortly thereafter, he died.

Austin’s uncle, Shawn Sprout, also a member of the Church of the Firstborn, told KVAL News he thought Austin’s death was God’s will. “It’s what we live for. We live to die so we can go to heaven.”

KVAL News reported that the Oregon legislature changed the law in 201l so that a person can no longer use faith-based healing as a defense against manslaughter charges.

Rick Ross, an expert on cults, told ABC News that this group believes that seeking medical help is going “against God.” Those who do seek medical help are considered to be weak in faith.

According to ABC News, last year, another Oregon couple, Dale and Shannon Hickman, also members of this church, failed to get medical attention for their premature infant. He, too, died. This couple was sentenced to 75 months in prison.

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