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Book fights faith-healing deaths

Cameron Stauth’s most recent book, “In the Name of God,” bills itself as a true account of the fight that started in Oregon City to save children from faith-healing homicide and was published last week by St. Martin’s Press.

by: CAMERON STAUTH - Book coverStauth, 64, will read from the book at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, at Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside St., Portland. He will be joined by Rita Swan, one of the country’s leading advocates in the fight against faith-healing abuse.

To expose the “dark side” of American fundamentalism, “In the Name of God” follows a series of trials covered in the Oregon City News and Clackamas Review. Strauth uses his experience as a journalist who has written several medical books and narrative nonfiction novels to tell a more in-depth story of the trials.

Stauth’s 466-page book explores the origins of faith-healing practice from Europe to New England. As the action of the book starts, children in Oregon City’s Followers of Christ Church had been dying mysteriously for years, and several more reportedly were facing blindness, disability and death.

His readers will enter the houses of faith healers who anoint cooking oil on their sick children rather than go to the hospital for an easy fix to prevent suffering and death. Dr. Larry Lewman, the chief medical examiner for Clackamas County, is credited as an early advocate for prosecuting faith healers in the 1990s, when it seemed that religious-protection laws handcuffed district attorneys from bringing justice to Followers.

Police hear about a woman who is being held against her will by a group of faith healers trying to cure her depression with violent exorcisms. Three detectives and the lone prosecutor featured in the book work with an informant, who’s an anonymous church insider, to fight faith-based child abuse and to change the laws that protected its perpetrators. They are joined by a mother who had suffered a faith-healing tragedy herself.

Strauth features real cases involving the Beagley, Hickman, Worthington and Wyland families. In one scene early in the book that’s not for the faint of heart, Lewman opens up the body of a 6-year-old boy and concludes from his blackened bowels that he suffered terribly while dying.

“Because it is a violation of the laws of the state of Oregon to reveal the identity of any person who reports child abuse, a very limited number of names and identifying characteristics in this book have been altered to protect privacy,” Stauth notes.

Stauth believes that, although the battle against faith-healing abuse continues around the country, Oregon City’s victory has improved the future for the fight against children dying because of their parents’ beliefs.