The Oregon Department of Human Services won custody Tuesday of a 10-month-old Oregon City child facing blindness in one eye.
The girl’s parents, Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, believe in faith healing and are facing a trial in January on charges of failing to provide adequate care.
According to The Oregonian, the state has had temporary custody of Alayna Wyland since July. She was initially placed in foster care, but last month the state allowed her to return to the Wyland home under a court order that requires close medical supervision.
Tuesday’s ruling by Clackamas County Circuit Judge Douglas V. Van Dyk means the Wylands must continue to comply with a mandated treatment plan, and gives the state the power to act on the child’s behalf should the parents neglect treatment.
The girl, whose parents belong to the Followers of Christ in Oregon City, suffers from hemangioma — an abnormal buildup of blood vessels — that pushed her left eyeball outward and down. Her eye was covered for months and the lack of light and stimulation left her nearly blind.
The Oregonian reports that medicine is shrinking the mass and on-going therapy may improve vision, however recovery is not guaranteed and the girl’s outcome is uncertain.
The Wylands are charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment and face a trial in January. In that trial, the couple’s attorneys are expected to make the case about religious freedom.
John Neidig, an attorney representing Rebecca Wyland, accused DHS of persecuting the Wylands and “trampling” on their religious rights. “If these people had been Jewish, Catholic … even Muslim, DHS would have treated them in a different fashion,” he told The Oregonian.
But Van Dyk said there was no evidence of discrimination.
“It is unhelpful to this case to point fingers,” Van Dyk said. “It is not a church that is before this court. It is the Wylands.”
The Wylands are not the only members of their church, known for shunning medical treatment, to face charges. According to FOX-12 in Portland, another couple, Dale and Shannon Hickman, were charged in August with second-degree manslaughter. Police say the couple failed to medically treat their premature son.
Before the Wyland case, the Hickmans were the third couple identified as members of the Followers of Christ Church to face criminal charges in the death of a child during the past two years.
Fox reports that the state medical examiner’s office estimates that in the past 30 years, more than 20 children of church members have died of preventable or curable conditions.
After being charged for their son’s murders, the judge agreed to reduce the couple’s bail if they agreed to take their 6-year-old daughter to the doctor when she gets sick: