A recent tragic death of a baby indicates that exercising your religious beliefs entitles you to one free murder. I am referring to the case of Herbert and Catherine Schaible, a couple of fundamentalist Christians who conceived 9 children together, 7 of whom are still alive. What happened to the other two children? Well, both died from pneumonia, one at the age of 2 and the other at the age of 8-months. Any reasonable person reading about this case should find it both incredibly sad and anger-provoking.
In the vast majority of cases, pneumonia is a short-term illness that is very treatable. The treatment is usually a regimen of antibiotics, the application of which produces a high cure rate. So why did the Schaibles’ two children die from pneumonia? Well, it is because they were not given the opportunity to be treated with antibiotics.
“We believe in divine healing, that Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil’s power,” explained Herbert Schaible in a police statement issued in court.
Catherine Schaible added this, “It means that we pray and ask to be healed the way Jesus did when he was on earth.”
The Schaibles’ belong to the First Century Gospel Church in Philedelphia, PA. The official tenet of the church related to treatment of disease is as follows:
Our commitment to God means that we trust God alone for physical healing without the use of medicine, drugs, prescriptions, pills, or human remedies. Jesus said to the woman Matthew 9:22 “your faith has healed you;”and the apostle reminded those listening Acts 3:16 “It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him [faith being the condition] that has given this complete healing.”
While most people (even, I hazard to guess, most fundamentalists) would find the Schaibles’ (and their church’s) position on faith-healing contemptible and wrong-headed, their reliance on faith-healing is not the most alarming aspect of this story. The Schaibles were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of their 2-year old back in 2009 and sentenced to 10 years’ probation! The real tragedy of the story is that the authorities did not remove their other children from their custody even though the Schaibles’ allowed one child to die from an easily-treatable condition. This makes both the Schaibles, their church, and the state culpable in the recent death of their 8-month old son, also from pneumonia. Finally the Schaibles are finally facing murder charges for this most recent killing, and the remaining seven children have been removed from their care. These measures, however, are a little to late to save their infant son. Let’s hope for the sake of the remaining children, that the Schaibles are never allowed again to practice their particular faith-based parenting.
There is always a tension between the state’s right to intervene and the parents’ right to parent as they see fit. However, parents give up their right to freely make parenting choices when there is evidence that they deliberately put their children in harm’s way. The official tenet of their church on the reliance of faith healing is direct evidence that the Schaibles, and other parents that belong to this church, deliberately place their children at risk. This is true, whether or not they feel justified by scripture. And knowingly placing children in harm’s way such that it results in death is nothing short of murder. I hope that the church comes under scrutiny by public officials, and that no other tragedies befall their community owing to the church’s outrageous position on medical assistance. As a society we should not countenance a one-free murder policy.
It has been reported that the Schaibles will face up to 7 years in jail for the murder of their child.