Dependence on prayer kills again.

But this time, it’s particularly disgusting.

A Philadelphia couple — serving 10 years’ probation for the 2009 death of their toddler after they turned to prayer instead of a doctor — has violated their probation now that another of their children has died.

Want to know how to get probation instead of jail time for neglecting your children to death?  Call it religion.

And if you ever needed further proof of the extent to which religion is capable of corrupting the human mind, here it is.  They watched as prayer did not save their first child, and while anybody depending on what works would have long since written off prayer, even not working wasn’t enough to shake their faith.

Faith is nothing but an excuse to believe foolish things and, as we can see, foolish beliefs are not without consequences.  Pursued gullibility is always irresponsible, not just when it twists a parent’s desire to save their child into the machinations of murder.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Art Vandelay

    I hope that whatever judge decided that probation was a justifiable punishment for watching your child die realizes that this blood is on his hands too.

    • Cynical and Bitter

      They should go to prison.

      But so should the doctor who killed my cousin with Medical Malpractice; but he didn’t and they never do, even though Med Mal kills over 100,000 people a year, by the AMA’s own statistics.

      • Ryan

        Withholding obviously necessary medical care is NOT comparable to providing medical care and something going wrong, whether by unforeseeable circumstances or clinical error. I’m sorry for your loss, but don’t pretend that the doctor did anything like those parents did…

  • Artor

    Why the fuck were these assholes allowed custody of another child after they murdered their first?

    • Rebecca

      Not ONE other child…SEVEN. Fucking horseshit of the highest order. Unreal.

  • Glodson

    Authorities have yet to file criminal charges in the death of the 8-month-old boy last week, after he suffered with diarrhea and breathing problems for days. But charges could be filed once authorities pinpoint how the baby died.

    The couple is on probation after a jury convicted them of involuntary manslaughter in 2010 in the death of their 2-year-old son, Kent, from pneumonia.

    No other commentary needed. Needless suffering and death. All based on the useless notion that prayer does anything.

  • BabyRaptor

    And when they wind up in jail, where they rightly belong, we’ll hear cries of persecution.

    Nevermind the two dead children.

    Bet you anything these sick Fucks were pro-forced birth. Fetuses and straight white males: The only people in religion who have any rights.

  • Rain

    People like this are the reason why the unspoken assumption by most believers about a lot of Bible verses is that the verses are too stupid to be taken seriously. (Although they never quit put it into those exact words.)

    • Glodson

      The wonderful thing about the Bible is that one can always find a verse to justify whatever the fuck one wants to do. Want to believe that prayer is a catch-all, got a verse for that. Want to say that prayer didn’t work in this case because they didn’t have enough, or the right kind of, faith? Got a verse for that. Want to believe that God helps those who help themselves? Got a verse for that too.

      Nevermind that it isn’t internally consistent. That’s fine, as long as you can justify what ever you want. Contradictions in the Bible, a feature not a bug.

      • Andrew Kohler

        As they are fond of saying on The Atheist Experience: it’s the big book of multiple choice.

      • Rain

        That’s why I say gods can do anything, including contradicting themselves. If one can be omnipotent plus contradict oneself, then one’s got it made! It’s a gravy train.

  • Bob Jase

    As we all know, the Lord helps those who help themselves..except that the Lord’s idea of help is to let people die.

  • Randomfactor

    It’s a shame. They could have been praying in prison all this time.

  • Loqi

    I’m attempting to figure out an appropriate way to respond to this.
    Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
    Nope, didn’t do the trick. English doesn’t have the right words to get the job done. Any polyglots out there? Are there words in other languages strong enough to display as much contempt as these people deserve?

    • Bob Jase

      Probably something in German but I don’t speak it.

      • Andrew Kohler

        I was going to try to make an obscene German sentence of my own, but instead I’ll leave you with part of Carl Orff’s own libretto, in the Bavarian dialect, to his Die Bernauerin (premiere 1947). This work is the retelling of a regionally famous episode in Bavarian history: Duke Ernst’s son Albrecht married a commoner, Agnes Bernauer, and for political reasons the duke saw it necessary to have her executed by drowning on October 12, 1435. In Orff’s version, Albrecht thus swears his vengeance:

        Und drumma herum, mein Minkerne Stadt, mei Minka, mei vielliebe Stadt, zur Sühnen muss die mitbrennen: aufbrennen, verbrennen, ausbrennen ganz, ausbrennen schier bis zum Grund, auf dass die Schmach, der Schimpf und der Fluch das ringserne Land nit vergift. Austilgt muss s’ wern von der Erdn.

        [And all around, my city of Munich, my Munich, my much-beloved city, as penance must it burn: burn up, be reduced to ashes, burn out completely, burn out, nearly to the ground, so that the disgrace, the dishonor and the curse will not poison the land all around. They must be ripped out of the earth.]

        I never think that burning down cities is a good idea (and don’t worry, he doesn’t), but the imagery of a disgrace of such magnitude poisoning the land all around sounds about right. And “die Schmach, der Schimpf und der Fluch” is pretty good, too.

  • Steve

    There were (and probably still are) some states that have explicit exemptions in law for “faith healing”. So if parents murders their child, the courts are prohibited from charging them to the full extent and can only go with manslaughter or negligent homicide.

    • baal

      aka christian privilege. Other parents are held liable for the preventable deaths of their children.

      • Andrew Kohler

        It is not just Christian privilege. Wouldn’t it be nice to see some criminal prosecution against practitioners of metzitzah b’peh? An old article on this subject from The Hitch:

        There have been more cases of infant herpes, even death, since this piece was first published in 2005. Since then, Michael Bloomberg has become somewhat less wimpy on this subject, but as far as I can tell he’s still much harder on large size soda cups than infecting babies with herpes by taking a knife to their genitals and sucking on the wound. The most that has been done against this unspeakable practice is to make the parents sign a permission slip (like it’s a school field trip!) to inform them of the risks and ensure informed consent–just not of the person whom it actually effects, who gets no say in the matter.

        All this is to say that it’s not only Christian privilege but also the idea of parental rights and “religious freedom” being valued over the lives and health and bodily autonomy of children. This is similar to those who are more concerned with people who don’t approve of homosexuality and/or birth control being forced to accommodate the existence of people who don’t think like them than they are about gay people being denied fundamental rights or women having their bodily autonomy (noticing a pattern?) violated.

        • M

          It would be nice. Or at least a requirement that if they are going to practice metzitzah b’peh, mohels be tested for herpes and hepatitis every month or so and have to show a clean, recent test result to parents who want the ceremony. You know, kind of like porn actors.

          • Andrew Kohler

            Do you know if this has been proposed, M? Because it is really seems like the most reasonable measure under the circumstances (although it’s not far enough for my liking). Certainly better than a piddling permission slip saying “You know you’re endangering your child, right? You do? Okay, then go for it! Just don’t drink a 32 oz. soda during the bris.”

            I’ve read defenses of metzitzah b’peh saying that mohelim are the most upright and respectable of men and *of course* they won’t have STDs, so no problem! (Just like no priest would ever sexually assault a child, I guess….) I’ve also heard that these people think that nothing bad can happen when one is performing a mitzvah. I don’t think I even need to reply to either of these statements (note I don’t say “arguments.”)

            I think I have posted this link in the relatively recent past, but it bears reposting–this group seems to have a very sound policy, and the link to their report is highly informative (though not for the faint of heart):


          • Ashton

            Andrew, I’m not sure that what is transmitted is necessarily an STD. I believe that there are other strains that may be transmitted by more casual contact. Adults can fight it off just fine, but it can leave babies dead or with permanent brain damage. Either way, testing sounds like a good idea if banning isn’t possible.

          • M

            Sadly, I don’t think it has. Pretty sure as far as it’s gone is the informed consent form, which is pretty weak protection in this case. One can always hope, though!

    • Steve

      And it turns out Pennsylvania is such a state:

      “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.”


  • iknklast

    They get probation; the second child gets a death sentence. Talk about the sins of the father….

  • hotshoe

    Seven other children of this couple have now been taken into CPS protection, so at least the parents can’t kill any more of them.
    The terms of probation for their previous crime should have included sterilization for both the father and mother. That would have prevented the death of this little baby.
    If they weren’t killing little children, they could be free to believe whatever nonsense about prayer they want to believe. Religious freedom is fine as long as you’re only harming yourself. But at this point someone in Philadelphia DA’s office should investigate the church they attend and find out who in that church deserves to be charged as an accessory to murder of this poor baby. Who at the church instructed them? Who at the church told them NOT to call the doctor? Who else has blood on his hands for this religiously-motivated crime?
    And which officer of the law will have the courage to charge them for their crimes in the face of cries about “persecuting christians for their faith” ??

  • Jeremy sheley

    “Whether their religion had anything to do with the death of their baby, we don’t know.” Defense attorney

    Really? We are uncertain whether or not their religion played a part in this…come on, this was most likely a treatable illness that took thier sons life. If they didn’t hold a belief that their god will heal their kid if they pray to it, the kid would be alive today.

  • Mike

    It’s like they have a gambling addiction. Their system was fool-proof and couldn’t possibly be wrong so they doubled down and will keep going until the odds swing in their favour. Win…eventually.

  • NewDawn2006

    “Whether their religion had anything to do with the death of their baby, we don’t know.” Defense attorney Jayaraman on Tuesday.
    I would say we do know…

    • Stogoe

      He’s the couple’s defense attorney. Sometimes thay have to blatantly and obviously lie to everyone around them to give their client even a tiny shred of a chance to get off scot free on charges of torturing their children to death with preventable diseases.

  • Verimius

    I wonder if instead of praying these people had sat there just staring at their child as it died, what kind of sentence they would have received?

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      I prayed at a man in Reno.
      Just to watch him die.

  • Derrik Pates

    The problem is, they still see it as loving, because they believe that their child’s soul is saved. Their soul. The one part of a person they can’t even prove exists. The child is dead, but as long as their soul is saved, that’s way more important than whether their (singular, real, non-repeatable, PROVABLE) life has ended.

    I don’t even know where to begin. How do you make someone understand? Clearly criminal prosecution didn’t work for these people.