A FUNDIE Christian couple who relied on prayer, not medicine, to cure their dying toddler son was convicted last week of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.
Herbert and Catherine Schaible of Philadelphia face more than a decade in prison for the January 2009 pneumonia death of 2-year-old Kent.
Jury foreman Vince Bertolini, 49, told The Associated Press:
We were careful to make sure we didn’t have their religion on trial but were holding them responsible for their conduct. At the least, they were guilty of gross negligence, and (therefore) of involuntary manslaughter.
The Schaibles, who have six other children, declined to comment as they left the courthouse to await sentencing February 2.
Experts say about a dozen US children die in faith-healing cases each year. An Oregon couple were sentenced this year to 16 months in prison for negligent homicide in the death of their teenage son, who had an undiagnosed urinary blockage.
Kent Schaible’s symptoms had included coughing, congestion, crankiness and a loss of appetite, although his parents said he was eating and drinking until the last day, and they had thought he was getting better.
Herbert Schaible, 42, teaches at a school affiliated with their church, First Century Gospel Church. His wife, 41, previously taught there, but now stays at home with the couple’s children, from an infant to teenagers.
The Schaibles grew up in the church and have never received medical care themselves, not counting the help of the 84-year-old lay midwife who attends home births, according to pastor Nelson A Clark.
Clark balks at suggestions the church is a cult or fringe religion.
Church elders do not shun members who seek medical care, although they pray that they make a different choice next time, he said. He notes the high number of deaths blamed each year on medical mistakes – as many as 100,000 a year in hospitals alone, according to a widely discussed Institute of Medicine study from 1999.
The legal community is trying to force our church group to put them in the hands of this flawed medical system, when they have chosen to put them in the hands of a perfect God, who does not make mistakes.
The couple did not take the stand during the four-day trial, but a social worker testified that Kent Schaible once said “the devil won” in the battle for their son’s life.