Oregon

A&E documentary looks at faith healing church in PNW

The film is based on Dan Tilkin's investigation into child deaths in the church

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) --  A new documentary about an epidemic of children dying in the Northwest is based on my investigative reporting into the Followers of Christ church in Oregon and Idaho. 

I'm featured in A&E's "No Greater Law" as a kind of hidden Easter egg, as a hat tip to the investigation I started 7 years ago. 

The documentary gets inside the faith healing belief system and the people fighting to save children from their own parents.  

One of the central figures in the documentary is Dan Sevy, whose 14-year-old son Rocky died in his mother's arms from untreated pneumonia. His was the first Idaho child death I made public in 2011. 

In my investigation into the Followers of Christ in Idaho, I documented how the state refused to do what Oregon has done: Change faith healing laws to punish parents who don't take their kids to the doctor.

I was the first reporter to question Sevy about his beliefs. In the new documentary he makes his case to keep the government from stepping in.

"If you don't have power over your own body and your own children, then forget it," Sevy says in the documentary. "It's revolution time."

"No Greater Law" also follows the people who have tried to take on the church, like Linda Martin.

"I think this one of the most vial places on Earth," she says in the film. 

I was the first to tell her story when she launched her mission 5 years ago. She was raised in the church and is trying to convince the legislature to end what you see at the church cemetery. If you go there, as I have, you will see grave after grave of children. 

Many of the last names there are the same as families who attend the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City. That's where five couples have been prosecuted, including most recently Travis and Sarah Mitchell. They were just sentenced to prison in July after their newborn daughter had difficulty breathing and died hours after birth.

"These are not things children die of in our time," Martin said. "This is what children die of back in the 1800s, not the 2000s." 

The documentary follows Martin's frustration and failure to change the minds of those with the power to save kids.

The filmmakers tried to stay neutral, so anyone looking for them to condemn what these families are doing may be frustrated by the documentary.

"No Greater Law" premiers on the A&E network at either 7 p.m. or 10 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, depending on your cable provider. 



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