Christian Couple Kills Their Second Child… with Prayer

In 2009, Kent Schaible, the two-year-old son of Herbert and Catherine Schaible, contracted bacterial pneumonia. Kent could have been saved by doctors, but his parents didn’t give him that chance. Instead, they prayed for ten days… and, to nobody’s surprise, that didn’t help. A few doses of Tylenol could have saved Kent’s life, but his parents decided they had a better solution in mind.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible

The Schaibles belong to First Century Gospel Church of Juniata Park, Pennsylvania. It’s a place where the pastor preaches the gospel of faith-healing — if you have enough faith, God will heal you and those you love. You don’t need a doctor if you just believe hard enough. And if you don’t, you’ll be punished…

Medical insurance, hospital fees, and prescription costs today are enormous, but a believer receives healing for free.

If anyone has more faith in doctors and drugs, than they have in the living God and the risen Savior, their salvation would be in serious jeopardy.

Someone should tell the church that one interpretation of the Bible is that God gave people doctors to help heal them. God’s giving you medicine; take it!

After Kent died, the Schaibles were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. In all, they could have served up to 17 years in prison. But that’s not what happened:

Pointing out that, according to Pennsylvania state law, “religious freedom is trumped by the safety of the child,” [Judge Carolyn] Engel Temin handed down her sentence: 10 years probation, the terms of which include a requirement that the Schaibles schedule regular appointments with a “qualified medical person” for all their children and release their children’s medical records to probation officers.

Not only did they receive a slap on the wrist, they were allowed to continue caring for their seven other children. But what about the court’s orders? Would they comply?

[Herbert Schaible] explained he will do his best to comply with the orders of his probation, which require that he and his wife allow their children to be checked up on by medical professionals.

“We’re not trying to live 10 years at one time,” he responded. “And when tomorrow comes, God will be with us. So that’s the way we look at it. He will show us what to do.”

Of course, I bring all of this up because of horrific news that was reported yesterday: The Schaibles have killed another one of their children in the same manner.

Brandon Schaible, only eight-months-old, spent the last weeks of his life breathing with difficulty and suffering from diarrhea. His parents watched him deal with this yet failed to take to heart the lesson they should have learned years ago: Take the child to a goddamn medical professional.

You want to pray? Fine. Pray. But do something useful while you’re at it.

At a hearing Monday, Philadelphia Judge Benjamin Lerner said the Schaibles violated the most important condition of their probation: to seek medical care for their remaining children.

… charges could be filed once authorities pinpoint how the boy died. An official cause of death is pending an autopsy, according to police.

Even if the official cause suggests he would’ve died no matter what the parents did, it wouldn’t take away from the fact that his parents did nothing of value.

Even the judge was blunt about what that meant:

I am sorry for your loss. Deeply sorry,” Judge Benjamin Lerner told the couple. “But in all honesty, I am more sorry for the fact that this innocent little child will not be able to grow up to be what he wanted to be.

“You are not a danger to the community,” Lerner said. “You are a danger to your children.”

The seven other Schaible children are currently in foster care while the parents are still free. The Schaibles now face jail time, a sentence they deserve now even more than they did years ago. Prosecutors are waiting to get the autopsy report before pressing criminal charges.

I have so many questions…

How many times does their imaginary God have to send them a message before they get the hint?

When is their pastor going to admit he’s preaching something dangerous and some of the blood is on his hands?

If the Schaibles were the ones who were sick, would they have denied themselves proper care, too?

We don’t know the answers to those questions, but we do know that the Schaibles didn’t make an honest mistake here. They saw the consequences the first time around and went down the same path this time.

Part of the problem is Pennsylvania law, which states:

If, upon investigation, the county agency determines that a child has not been provided needed medical or surgical care because of seriously held religious beliefs of the child’s parents, guardian or person responsible for the child’s welfare, which beliefs are consistent with those of a bona fide religion, the child will not be deemed to be physically or mentally abused.

In other words, child abuse to the point of death is awful… unless it’s done in the name of religion, in which case the state promises to look the other way. That needs to change. Religion shouldn’t be a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

And we shouldn’t have to wait for a third Schaible child to die before the parents are punished for their faith-based homicide.

On a side note, a lot of Christians will go to great lengths to protest abortion rights because they oppose “killing innocent babies.” But those same groups are basically nowhere to be found in cases of faith-healing deaths.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.