A faith-healing couple was sentenced to 3.5 to seven years in the death of their second child. Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner also sentenced the parents to 30 months probation following their release. Herbert and Catherine Schaible were facing up to 20 years in prison.
As members of the First Century Gospel Church, the couple practices faith healing. According to their beliefs, seeking medical attention of any form is a sin. Instead, the church’s members are expected to pray when they or their children become ill.
In 2009, the couple lost their 2-year-old son Kent to bacterial pneumonia. Authorities later determined that toddler’s death was preventable.
The couple decided to treat Kent’s pneumonia with prayer. Unfortunately, it simply was not enough. The parents were eventually charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.
Although they were convicted of both charges, the parents avoided incarceration. The judge sentenced them to 10 years of supervised probation. As a condition of the probation, the couple was ordered to seek medical attention if any of their seven remaining children became ill.
In 2013, the faith-healing parents’ 8-month-old son Brandon displayed the same symptoms that killed his little brother. Despite the court order, the Schaibles refused medical care. Within days, Brandon died in the family home.
The couple was arrested and charged with third-degree murder. The case is specifically chilling, as Brandon was the second child to die under their care.
As reported by Huffington Post, Herbert Schaible provided a statement following his arrest:
“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… Medicine… is against our religious beliefs.”
Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore argued that the faith-healing couple made their children suffer for their religious beliefs:
“God gave you these children to protect, to take care of. They are precious… They didn’t even give that baby Tylenol. What were you thinking? What were you thinking?”
The jury agreed with Pescatore, convicting both parents of involuntary manslaughter. Although the prosecutor plead for a sentence of eight to 16 years, Judge Lerner gave the faith-healing couple a reduced sentence. Both parents will be eligible for parole in 3.5 years.
Prior to their sentencing, Herbert and Catherine Schaible apologized for their son’s death and for violating the previous order. They committed to seeking medical treatment for their remaining seven children.
The faith-healing parents previously argued that they were simply practicing their right to religious freedom.