Faith-heads face manslaughter charges after choosing prayer over medical care

AUSTIN SPROUT was 16 when he died last December after his parents chose prayer, rather medical care for an undisclosed illness he was suffering.

Austin Sprout. Click on pic for video report

Five years earlier, the Oregon teenager’s fundamentalist dad, Brian Sprout, met his Maker after refusing medical treatment for sepsis that set in after an injury sustained in a fall.

Austin’s parents, Brandi and Russel Bellew, who attend General Assembly and the Church of the First Born in Pleasant Hill, Cresswell, now face second-degree manslaughter charges – and this week six of their children were made wards of the state. But they may continue to care for their remaining children under a state-supervised “in-home safety plan”,Lane County Circuit Juvenile Court Judge Eveleen Henry ruled in a brief afternoon hearing.

Terms of that plan include the presence of a state-approved “safety provider,” immediate notification of the state Department of Human Services if any of the children has “medical symptoms, illness or injury” and calling 911 if any medical emergency arises.

The safety monitor, Del McCracken, is a fellow church member, but “believes in seeking medical care and advocates for the children to have medical care,” the plan states.

The children are a blended family, created when Brandi and Russel Bellew married after both were widowed.

Brian Sprout was the biological father of three of the six children placed in state custody.

Monday’s hearing was packed with more than two dozen relatives and supporters of Brandi and Russel Bellew. Many were fellow church members who bowed their heads and appeared to pray during the hearing.

During the hearing lawyer, Bob Schrank, representing the Bellews, challenged as unnecessary the state’s request that both parents undergo a comprehensive psychological exam.

But child protection caseworker Jennifer Long Perkins said the state had a solid basis for seeking the exams:

By no means are we suggesting that these parents are crazy. But we are asking the family to make a significant, life-changing decision about a practice (faith-healing) they have long upheld. We want a professional opinion that they are able to do that.

Judge Henry ordered the exams, but allowed the couple to delay them until their criminal case is resolved.

Hat tip. Angela K