Where does the government draw the line at tolerating religious beliefs? That is the question at the heart of a recent tragedy in which two religious fundamentalists lost their second child to illness after refusing to take him to a doctor. The parents are already on probation related to the death of another one of their sons four years ago.
The Associated Press reports that Philadelphia couple Herbert and Catherine Schaible lost their 8 month-old son Brandon last week, after he began suffering from diarrhea and breathing problems. Because the Schaibles’ religion forbids any form of healing that does not come through prayer, Brandon was not treated with any medication or taken to a doctor, and eventually stopped eating and died.
The Schaible family belong to a fundamentalist Christian church that believes only God can cure illnesses. Neither Herbert nor Catherine have been to a doctor or taken any kind of medication in years, and only upon the death of their four year-old son four years ago did the court order that their children must be taken in for regular medical checkups. In that trial, the Schaibles were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to ten years of probation.
No charges have been filed in the death of the couple’s second son, Brandon, but charges may be filed when an autopsy on the infant’s body is completed. The judge overseeing the matter did not require any jail time for the couple, because he does not consider the couple to be a danger to the community. He does, however, consider them a danger to the couple’s remaining seven children, and they have been placed in foster care.
During the hearing, the couple told the court that they had prayed to God to cure their son.
“You did that once, and the consequences were tragic,” Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner said, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
“Nobody argues that these aren’t very loving, nurturing parents,” said Mythri Jayaraman, Catherine Schaible’s attorney. “Whether their religion had anything to do with the death of their baby, we don’t know.”
Image Credit: Philadelphia Police Department/AP