Faith-healing couple who lost their second son are charged with third-degree murder

FOLLOWING our report last month that a US couple – Herbert and Catherine Schaible – were under investigation for failing to seek medication attention when their seven-month-old son Brandon fell ill and later died, it has been confirmed that the parents, who believe only prayer can heal, have been charged with third-degree murder and other offences.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible after their arrest

Herbert and Catherine Schaible after their arrest

This was the second time the couple lost a child to illness. They were sentenced to 10 years probation after the 2009 death of their 2-year-old son Kent. Kent died after contracting pneumonia, an illness prosecutors said could have been prevented with basic medical care.

With Brandon’s death, prosecutors allege the couple violated their probation by not taking the baby to the doctor.

The Schaibles, according to this report, are members of the First Century Gospel Church in Philadelphia. Founded in 1925, it is an offshoot the Faith Tabernacle Congregation.

Families who attend Faith Tabernacle Congregation in North Philadelphia and First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park have lost more than two dozen children to illness since 1971, according to non-profit Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, Inc. (CHILD, Inc.). Both churches believe in the power of prayer over modern medicine.

In 1991, Faith Tabernacle lost five children to the measles after an outbreak. One child from First Century Gospel also died.

Dean Heilman was 22-months-old when he bled to death as a result of his haemophilia. His parents, Dean and Susan, were charged with involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to probation in 1997, according to court records.

Court records also show Annemarie and Daniel Foster were also charged in 1997 with endangering the welfare of their son Patrick. The two-year-old went months without treatment for a tumour. The Fosters were given probation and got Patrick treatment, according to CHILD, Inc. He died in 2007.

One member of First Tabernacle Thursday spoke about the church’s beliefs. John, who refused to give his surname, said:

The church believe that people get sick because they’re not doing the right thing. God promised us that if we do his will, that there’s no infection; all these diseases that you name, would not come to you.

“John” says he believes the congregation is being persecuted for their beliefs.

The “persecution” charge was repeated here by the couple’s lawyer Bobby Hoof after the Schaibles were denied bail last Friday, two days after their arrest. If convicted they could face 14 years in jail. Hoof said:

He is incarcerated because of his faith.

Dr Paul Offit, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says a parent’s faith should not trump their children’s health.

Although you are allowed to martyr yourself to your religion, you are not allowed to martyr your child to your religion.

Offit is now writing a book about the 1991 measles outbreak. He says Pennsylvania’s laws need to be changed to prevent additional faith-healing related deaths from happening.

In the State of Pennsylvania, there are religious exemptions to child abuse and neglect laws, we are backward in that sense. I think we need to eliminate those exemptions.

Hat tip: Andy Brown