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80 Child Deaths Linked to Oregon Church, Parents Say It is a Matter of Faith

A church in Oregon has been linked to over 80 child deaths since 1976. Parents in the fundamental Pentecostal sect, however, claim that the kids’ deaths are just a matter of their deeply held faith.

Church of the First Born preaches that their members-even young children-should forego medical treatment and instead rely on God alone. This belief extends even to the treatment of manageable disease and chronic conditions, such as pneumonia and diabetes.

So when Syble Rossiter’s teacher told her parents that she was worried that the 12-year-old had lost a considerable amount of weight in a single month and looked in ill-health, her parents did not take her to the doctor.

Instead, they relied on the church’s teachings and prayer and watched their once-vibrant little girl wither away and die from complications of untreated diabetes.

Unbelievably, Syble’s mother, Wenona, was well aware of the risks of refusing treatment. As a young person, she watched her 7-year-old brother die from a treatable form of leukemia when her own parents refused to seek medical help.

Her brother’s death led to the both her parents being charged in his death. Wenona’s father received probation for his part in the crime. Her mother was acquitted.

That did not stop Wenona from choosing to forgo treatment for her own child when she was ill however. Now, Wenona and her husband are facing similar charges in the death of their own daughter.

Yet while the Rossiter’s decision could land them in jail in Oregon,  in some states, it is still perfectly legal for parents to deny medical care or rely on unproven faith-based methods for their child, based on their religious beliefs.

Just months after Syble’s death, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged lawmakers to consider legislation in all states that would help kids get the care they need regardless of their family’s faith or face prosecution.

“I think it’s important that all children get appropriate medical care, that state policies should be clear about the obligations to provide this care and that state monies directed toward medical care should be used for established and effective therapies,” said Dr. Armand Antommaria of the AAP.

According to Rita Swan of CHILD, Syble’s case is the exception and  in many states Syble’s parents would not have faced charges at all in their child’s death.

As a result of a lack of legislation protecting these kids, she said, “scores” of children in America are dying each year in America when help is as close as the nearest hospital.

Syble’s parents’ trial in Oregon is now underway.



Photo Credit: Screenshot

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.

  • fuzzerdog

    The children should be able to decide for themselves when they reach maturity. In the meantime they should be able to have medical treatment. This is ridiculous bordering on insane.

    • Andie Cheyenne Schweizer

      At what age is mature, though? Puberty? 16?

      • JamieJoy Houck-Gatto

        You are a legal adult at age 18. Once an adult you can rely on superstition rather than medicine to heal and kill your own ass. You can’t kill children through medical neglect. What if my religion said to starve my children or deny them clothing? Your religion is your problem, not your kid’s. At least if they continue to kill their children the idiotic religion will die off with the members. BTW I think ALL religions are superstitious idiocy. I’m an equal opportunity hater.

      • fuzzerdog

        You can vote at 18, be drafted at 18, I think you should decide if you want to die from some treatable disease at 18, and not be victimized before then. Ya think?

    • Michelle Karma Johnston

      That is true, but when you have been raised by a cult, you think like that cult. These people (now parents) who have been raised in this church are completely brainwashed. I do not know if any amount of deprogramming will help.

  • Flava Futha Muckin J

    You can’t fix fucktard, but you can separate them from the general population and let them die off like all the other animals to stupid for their own good.

    • George O’Hagan

      Right…fence them all in, take away the children & put them in foster/adoptive homes with non-insane parents, sterilize the “adults” and let them rot and die.

      • Tyrell_Corp

        Nice “final solution,” asshole.

        • George O’Hagan

          there’s absolutely no comparison with the “Final Solution” of the germans and these idiots. They let their kids die because some preacher told them it was god’s will to take care of the children, not theirs. Now +/- 80 children are dead because of the ignorance of their parents. Who are the assholes?

  • amosnme

    There shouldn’t need to be a trial. These parents and the heads of this moronic church are obviously guilty. Starve them and make them suffer until they are cold and dead.

  • It might be a good idea to require quack preachers to be covered by malpractice insurance like quack doctors and put warning labels above the church door, “Caution, quackery preached here”.

  • bailey78

    Freaking Religious Nuts.

  • psphilip

    loving parent watch their childre nDIE fr om simple treatable disease is NOT faith it is ignorance..and I a msure the states wherwe this is NOT illega lare HEAVILY GOP….faith in GOD YET if you beleicve thne GOD endowed man withthe ability to CURE disease by EDUCATION …..

  • eagoodlife

    Religious beliefs should never outweigh care for kids.

  • Chris

    This is stupidity, pure and simple. God created man, man invented medicine, medicine is used to treat the ill, and, it has all been a practice for thousands of years. If it was my child, I would be tossed from the congregation. Faith indeed. I follow God and, his teachings and, I have never seen anything that says, have faith and do not seek out man made cures. IMBECILES.

    • kale

      See, sadly, though you’re a completely rational person which is why you would never do this, if you actually followed your religion’s teachings instead of just picking out the nice things (i’m not having a go I think it’s fine, though I think you could also do that without it) you would be forced to do the same as these parents. They were just adhearing to the bible.

      James 5:13-15
      Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him
      sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of
      the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the
      name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick,
      and the Lord will raise him up.

      2 Corinthians 12:7-10
      So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing
      greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a
      messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.
      Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
      But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is
      made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of
      my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the
      sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships,
      persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

      Without that old horrible book those kids might still be around 🙁

      • Gary

        Perhaps this stuff was said because they didn’t have hospitals or doctors back then like they do today. Modern medicine did not exist back then like it does today. And nowhere in those passages does it say “you cannot take your child to the doctor” Even if it did, these parents deserve the death penalty. You cannot sit back and allow your child to die because you are a religious nut and not expect there to be repercussions.

  • Michael J. Simmons

    It is sad, very very sad that some folks just can’t get beyond religious faith or learn how to integrate it with Medical/Health care.

  • Jen Adamo

    These are probably the same people who are against abortion. A fetus they care about, but real children they are willing to let die because of their IGNORANT, idiotic beliefs.

  • Rob Garcia

    remember when jesus said “dont go to the hospital”?
    oh wait he didnt

  • harmonikasavingsbond

    The only reason they oppose abortion is because that will leave them with less children to murder.

  • Gary

    The parents should get the death penalty. And so should any parent who allows their child to suffer and die when treatment was available.

  • Shyla H.

    This situation is the exception? I guess they don’t know about Jehovah’s
    Witnesses refusing blood transfusions because it is against their
    religion. I used to be a JW, and I know so many adults and CHILDREN who
    have died because they refused blood. Adults can make whatever decision they want, but you should not refuse medical treatment for your children. Laws need to be set in place to protect the innocent.

  • I_B_ME

    Religion , the great scam ever put over the human race.

  • tribbles

    *Rossiters’ decision

  • Andrew Banks

    The leaders of this church should be tried as serial killers. The parents as willing accomplices.