Faith Healing: Should parents be held legally accountable for relying on prayer rather than medicine?

Snapshot 2010-12-10 12-26-22 I spent much of the week over at the Criminal Justice Center, Courtroom 1108 to be precise, covering the type of story I’ve never covered before. And I’ve covered a whole slew of unusual stories in my day.

Here’s a quick summary: Herbert and Catharine Schaible are fundamentalist Christians from Northeast Philly. In Jan. 2009, their 2.5-year-old son Kent was sick for one-to-two weeks. Rather than take him to the doctor or give him medicine, they prayed. Prayer didn’t work, and Kent died. So, the parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The trial started Monday. Here are links to the stories I’ve written about it:
• Dec. 6 … Prayer vs. Medical Attention On Trial
• Dec. 7 … Doctor: Vaccine and medicine may have saved boy
• Dec. 8 … Jury mulls parents’ faith in son’s death
• Verdict was expected Friday (when I was off), but as of 2 p.m., the jury hadn’t reached one. (I’ll update with a link when they do, if they do). [Update: Guilty verdicts.]

There’s so much more to it that I’m planning on doing a notebook-dumping post over at metro.us/philadelphia, but I’d love to hear thoughts on whether these parents should have been held criminally accountable for their son’s death brought about not by malice, but by religious beliefs from a community into which the parents were born.

Here’s what their church’s website says about God vs. medicine…

Believing faith in the atonement work of Jesus includes trusting God for healing without medicine, for divine protection without devices, and for daily needs without laid-up money. Acts 3:16 “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him.” When we worship and serve God, He heals us of illness Exodus 23:25. Psalm 91:9-10 “If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the LORD, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.” Our trust is to be on God everyday for everything in life. Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” by giving it to charity.

The question really came down to whether they knew he was in bad enough condition that he’d die without medical attention and whether they’d have even sought it if they did. Compelling tragedy.

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