‘Followers of Christ’ complicates local custody battle

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The custody battle involves three daughters

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A woman in Clackamas County is fighting to get her children back from her own parents.

Katie Duncan is in the midst of a heated custody battle involving her three daughters, their grandparents — and the Followers of Christ Faith Healing Church in Oregon City.

When Duncan and her ex-husband filed for divorce, the couple signed over custody to Duncan’s parents, who are members of the church. Duncan says that her parents are preventing her from regaining custody of the kids because she is no longer a member of the Followers of Christ.

“Their intention was to take our children from us so that they could ensure the children remained in the church,” Duncan said.

Critics of the Followers of Christ have said the organization operates like a cult. There have been at least five instances in the past decade in which members of the church have been criminally prosecuted. The crimes range from murder to child neglect.

KOIN 6 News received a statement from the lawyer for the kids’ grandparents, Danny and Shanon Kelley:

“When you’re in a divorce and you leave the church, they see you as basically a disciple of Satan,” said Linda Martin, a former member of the church turned activist. “You’re ‘Worldly’ because you’re not in that church anymore, and they feel the only way to save those children is to keep them in the church.”

In Duncan’s case, the judge ruled that prior rulings violated her constitutional rights.

Hank Pailet, Duncan’s attorney, says Duncan has been fighting dutifully for two years.

“[Duncan] should have never lost [the kids] in the first place,” says Pailet.

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