In an end to a truly tragic tale, Herbert and Catherine Schaible, the Philadelphia couple who practiced faith healing instead of seeking medical care as their 2-year-old son Kent died of bacterial pneumonia, were recently sentenced to probation.
Last December, the Schaibles were convicted of involuntary manslaughter following the January 2009 death of their son, after what began as a cold progressed to bacterial pneumonia over the course of two weeks as they prayed over him instead of taking him to a doctor. The Schaibles’ church, the fundamentalist First Century Gospel Church of Juniata Park in Philadelphia, considers seeking medical care to be a sin and lack of faith in God, and shuns those who see a doctor.
The Schaibles could each have been sentenced to five to 10 years in prison, and 3.5 to seven years for endangering the welfare of a child. As part of their probation, the couple will be required to ensure regular medical care for their seven surviving children, ages 1 to 15, and seek medical assistance for issues as minor as the common cold, which will mean committing a sin in the eyes of their church. Should they violate those terms, they can end up in prison.
"I think the judge clearly stated it, and pretty succinctly," Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said after the sentencing, reports UPI. "She said that no matter what your religious freedom is, the welfare of your child trumps that, and it's more important than that in the Commonwealth and the United States. Your children come before your religion."
Does this sentence seem fair? Is this a time when freedom of religion needs to come second to the physical needs of a child?