Church supports couple who denied newborn medical treatment

Associated Press/July 7, 2004

A church elder said he supports two congregants whose newborn daughter died after they refused medical attention and relied instead on prayer in hopes of curing her blood infection.

The death of Rhiana Rose Schmidt less than two days after she was born last August was the third in the past six years involving a child whose parents were members of the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn near Morgantown. In each case, the parents did not seek medical treatment.

"Scripture will still read the same as it does now," said Tom Nation, an elder at the church about 20 miles south of Indianapolis. "This doesn't change anything for us."

A Johnson County grand jury last week indicted DeWayne Schmidt, 35, and Maleta Schmidt, 29, on felony charges of reckless homicide. The Schmidts surrendered to the Johnson County sheriff on Saturday and were released after posting $8,000 bonds.

A telephone message seeking comment was left at the Schmidts' home in Franklin on Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Nation, a clergyman at the church for more than 30 years, said the Schmidts were practicing their religious beliefs.

"Here these kids lost their baby, and now they're being harassed," he said. "This is about taking away our freedom of religion."

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