Travis and Sarah Mitchell
Travis and Sarah Mitchell face murder charges Clackamas County Sheriff's Office

A young couple who belong to a faith-healing church face murder charges after failing to contact emergency services when their prematurely born baby developed breathing problems and subsequently died.

Travis and Sarah Mitchell, 21 and 24 respectively, lost their daughter Ginnifer a few hours after she was born at Sarah's parents' home on 5 March, according to police.

Their arrests the next day marked the fourth time in ten years that members of the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon had been arrested for failing to provide medical treatment for a dying child.

The Followers of Christ, a small Christian denomination of less than 2,000 followers with branches in Oregon and Oklahoma, reject conventional medical practice and endorses faith healing.

Several members of the church were present for the birth of Ginnifer and her twin sister, who was also born premature.

Police say both girls exhibited breathing problems but no call was made to the emergency services.

After Ginnifer's death, church leader Carl Hansen called the Clackamas County medical examiner, Karen Gunson, who then arrived at the scene and demanded that the surviving twin be given proper medical attention.

Gunson claims that Ginnifer's death, which arose from complications due to her prematurity, could have been prevented if she had received proper medical attention

That second child is now in the neonatal intensive care unit at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland. It is unclear who is responsible for he custody.

In 2011, Sarah Mitchell's sister, Shannon Hickman, and her brother-in-law, Dale Hickman, were found guilty of second-degree manslaughter after the 2009 death of their infant son just nine hours after he was born. They were sentenced to six years in prison.

Two other couples belonging to the church have been arrested after children died in the last decade although the Mitchell's are the first to face murder charges.

In 2011, legislators in Oregon passed a bill making it illegal to use spiritual treatment on people younger than 18 when conventional medical treatment is required.

The Mitchell's will appear in court today (6 June).