Faith Assembly, which had followers from Elkhart County in the 1970s and ’80s, is connected to at least 91 deaths because the church believed medical treatment was satanic.
It was October 1985 when Ira Hathaway lapsed into a coma. Four days before his 14th birthday, he died.
The coma was caused by complications related to diabetes. Medication likely could have prevented the coma but Ira’s parents, Max and Fran Hathaway, weren’t even aware of his disease.
Ira showed flu-like symptoms in the days before his death, but no one in his family even considered taking him to a doctor — not even after he went into the coma — because it was against their religion. Instead, his family and neighbors — all members of the Faith Assembly church — prayed for his recovery.
Max and Fran Hathaway were later charged with and convicted of reckless homicide because they didn’t seek medical care for their son, according to an Elkhart Truth article published Sept. 24, 1987.
The Faith Assembly congregation shunned medical treatment in favor of divine healing. The Hathaways testified that they believed Ira died because their faith wasn’t strong enough.
“I don’t believe Ira died because of our choosing to take him to the Lord and not to a doctor,” Fran Hathaway said during the trial. “I believe he died from Max and I not being in a position to receive healing from the Lord.”
For members of Faith Assembly, which was founded in the 1970s in Kosciusko and Noble counties, deaths like Ira’s weren’t unusual. He was one of at least 91 people who reportedly died between when the church began until 1985. There were Faith Assembly branches all over northwestern Indiana; the Hathaways belonged to a Goshen branch.
A jury found the couple guilty Sept. 23, 1987. The court later decided, however, that it was more important for the parents to take care of their eight remaining children than to be punished, according to an article published Nov. 17, 1987, in The Goshen News. The Hathaways were fined, given eight years probation and had to bring their children for regular health examinations.
An upcoming documentary, “Surviving Faith Assembly,” will take a look at the church, its founder, and the congregants who died for their beliefs or those of their parents.
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SOURCE: The Elkhart Truth
J. C. Lee