Couple spared prison in sick son’s death

Philadelphia, USA - A fundamentalist Christian couple who relied on prayer to cure their dying toddler must take their remaining children for medical checkups as part of their sentence in the boy’s death, a judge ruled yesterday.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible, who belong to First Century Gospel Church in Philadelphia, were previously convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the pneumonia death of their 2-year-old son, Kent.

Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn Engel Temin said that adults are entitled to follow church teachings shunning medicine, which is seen as a lack of faith in God. But parents, the judge ruled, may not make that decision for their children.

“The welfare of the child is more important than the religious freedom of the parents,’’ Temin said.

Defense lawyers had argued that the Schaibles did not know how sick Kent was before his death in January 2009. The boy’s symptoms had included coughing, congestion, crankiness, and a loss of appetite. But the parents said that the boy was eating and drinking until the last day, and that they thought he was improving.

Speaking in court, Herbert Schaible asked the judge for leniency to allow the couple to support their family.

Temin sentenced them to 10 years of probation, during which they are required to seek routine and emergency medical care for their seven children, ages 1 through 15.