Saturday, April 27, 2013

Religious Extremism Causes Horrific Tragedies

Recently, a child died in Pennsylvania because his parents refused to get him medical care, and an infant in Chile was burned alive because a cult thought he was the anti-Christ.

Brandon Schiable was born into a family in Pennsylvania who rejects all forms of medical care, because their church believes that it is a sin, it's a lack of trust in God. 8 month old Brandon started to get heavy breathing, diarrhea, and several other signs that he was seriously ill, but still, his parents stuck to their beliefs that medical care is immoral, and young Brandon died.

The most disturbing aspect of this story is that Brandon's parents, Hebert and Catherine were already on probation for manslaughter, because of the death of their infant son Kent in 2009 under similar circumstances.

Herbert and Catherine's mugshots
After their conviction, their remaining children were allowed remain in their custody, but the court ruled that if their children were to become ill again, that the children should receive care, and that all instructions by the doctor must be followed.

 That didn't happen, obviously .Their lawyer even had doubts over whether or not they were going to follow the judge's order after their 2011 sentencing:

At the 2011 sentencing, Catherine Schaible's own attorney expressed doubts that the parents would call a doctor if any of their children became ill. 
"I have some concerns personally about their ability within their faith or their willingness to proactively take their children to get medical attention," attorney Mythri Jayaraman said then 
Jayaraman had requested that the family be referred to Department of Human Services, court records show.
No charges yet have been filed in this case, prosecutors say they are waiting for the results of a medical examiner's report on Brandon's death, but the remaining 7 children are now finally in foster care. As it turns out, under Pennsylvania law, their state Department of Human Services, their social services agency is rather limited it what it can do to intervene when medical care is denied to a child based on the religious beliefs of the parents:

Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law includes a religious exemption for instances in which parents neglect children's medical needs because of religious beliefs. Those faith-based cases cannot be labeled child abuse - a categorization many advocates feel prevents children from getting needed services. 
While the exemption limits DHS oversight, it does not prohibit the agency from any involvement with the family, said DHS spokeswoman Alicia Taylor. 
Frank Cervone, executive director of the Support Center for Child Advocates, said that a judge could require a defendant's cooperation with DHS as a condition of sentencing and that "DHS is generally willing to support the court's efforts."
Such cases can't be considered child abuse legally, and DHS intervention is limited until the parents are charged with, and convicted of a crime.

Another tragic incident involving religious extremism and the death of a child also happened this week, reports are coming out from Chile that a cult there in November burned an infant alive because they thought he was the anti-Christ

Shortly after his birth at a local hospital, he was thrown into a 2 meter deep fire pit and burned alive.The mother approved of the murder The cult believed in the "Mayan apocalypse" , and the cult's leader believed himself to be god.

 The infant's mother approved of the murder, and she and two other members of the cult have been arrested.

Chilean police are still looking for the cult's leader, who is believed to be hiding in Peru.

In the case of the death of Brandon Schiable, I find the fact that Pennsylvania law stands behind parents who refuse to get medical care more shocking than his death. Why is the state unwilling to act strongly to such cases until the parents are convicted of a crime (which more than likely would be as the result of a child's death as in this case)?

Why did the court only give Herbert and Catherine Schiable probation for the previous case where their child died? Why were they allowed to keep their remaining children? In my opinion, if Herbert and Catherine wanted to make the decision for themselves never to receive medical care, I would find that senseless and highly illogical,m but that would be their right. However, why is denying medical care to one's children more tolerated?

The child has no legal ability to make that choice for themselves, and in both deaths in the Schiable family, the child was even to young to understand what was going on. Why isn't this legally considered any different from any other form of neglect/abuse? Would a family who did the same thing, but didn't use religious beliefs to justify it receive probation like they did? Probably not.....

The law needs to change in Pennsylvania.


  1. I said the first time around that the other children were in danger and that another child was going to die due to their neglect. I was right, but so was everyone else that read that story originally about the first child.

    1. So true, here's what Andrew Hall of Laughing in Purgatory had to say in 2011 when the original story:

      At least the judge has ordered that the couple's remaining children go see a doctor and that the doctor's orders need to be followed.

      But I'm skeptical.

      My behavioral psychology professor had this saying,

      What's the best predictor of future behavior?
      Past behavior.

      If I thought it'd help, I'd pray for those kids.

      But I know better.

      This is Purgatory.

      His 2011 post:

      This week's post:

    2. The problem is, this just isn't that unusual. There are fundamentalist LDS groups, especially in Oregon, whose children die all the time due to religious refusal to provide medical treatment. Oregon even passed a law requiring people to provide reasonable treatment but the religious are just ignoring it and we're still seeing dead kids. I don't know how to stop it when the parents are willing to go to jail over their beliefs.

  2. They've got quite a racket, don't they? Not only do they cause this sort of stuff, but they've managed to convince many that they have all the answers so they are sought as a source of comfort in times of distress.

  3. No wonder we can't get Creationism banned in schools. The law is still worrying about parents' "right" to neglect their children to death.


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