This is the second death of a child born to these parents because they refused medical treatment due to their religious beliefs.
Herbert and Catherine Schaible believe in faith healing, and allowed their first child, 2-year-old Kent, to die because they believed prayer would heal him. They were on probation for this child’s death.
The latest tragedy happened when their second child, 8-month-old Brandon, died of complications due to pneumonia, a very treatable ailment had he been able to see a doctor. Instead of seeking medial attention, they comforted him and prayed over him.
The couple was sentenced Wednesday to three and a half to seven years in prison in the death of a second child who never saw a doctor despite being under court order to receive treatment.
“My religious beliefs are that you should pray, and not have to use medicine. But because it is against the law, then whatever sentence you give me, I will accept,” Catherine Schaible, 44, told the judge. She added that her beliefs have since changed.
The Schaibles are third-generation members of an insular Pentecostal community, the First Century Gospel Church in northeast Philadelphia, where they also taught at the church school. They have seven surviving children.
Judge Benjamin Lerner rejected defense claims that their religious beliefs “clashed” with the 2011 court order to get annual checkups and call a doctor if a child became ill. The order came after a jury convicted them of involuntary manslaughter in Kent’s death, and they were sentenced to 10 years of probation.
“April of 2013 wasn’t Brandon’s time to die,” Lerner said, noting the violence committed throughout human history in the name of religion. “You’ve killed two of your children. … Not God. Not your church. Not religious devotion. You.”
Experts say about a dozen U.S. children die in faith-healing cases each year.
What is most disturbing is what their pastor Nelson Clark claimed was the cause of death to the child, blaming the death on the parents ‘spiritual lack’, instead of the lack of medical attention the child required.
The couple insisted they would never seek medical care, even if another child were dying.
“It was so foreseeable to me that this was going to happen,” said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, who prosecuted both cases. “Everybody in the system failed these children.”
The remainder of the Schaible’s children are now in foster care, and some are with relatives. They will attend public schools for the first time, and are getting medical, dental, and vision care. Several now wear glasses.
The couple should not be parents and should be sentenced to life in prison for allowing young children to die.
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