PA Couple Murders Second Child By Faith

CN: Child abuse resulting in death, failure of the justice system

I wasn’t going to write about this. It makes me too angry. I want to scream and rage, I want to Hulk the fuck out and smash the church this couple attends. I want to make broad, sweeping statements that are emotionally satisfying but I know aren’t correct because they will make me feel better. And it’s taking everything in me to not do the last one, so I may fail, but please know that I am attempting it.

That being said, it’s because I’m so angry that my brain won’t stop thinking about this until I write down what I’m thinking.

What I’m thinking is that these parents have been allowed to murder two of their children because it was done initially in the name of faith, when they should have never been told that blind adherence without evidence is a virtue in the first place.

I am referring to Herbert and Catherine Schaible, a couple who, in 2009, were convicted of manslaughter charges for praying over their sick child instead of bringing them to the doctor. Rather than get something closer to the maximum penality of 17 years in prison, they were given 10 months years probation and made to promise, really promise, that they would take their children to the doctor in the future. They didn’t and now their 8 month old son has also died.

This is where we point out that their church teaches that going to doctors shows insufficient faith. “It is a definite sin to trust in medical help and pills; and it is real faith to trust on the Name of Jesus for healing,” says their sermon on healing and medicine.

The problem is not now, nor was it four years ago, that this couple didn’t love their children. They absolutely loved their children. They loved their children so much that they wouldn’t risk those children’s immortal souls to eternal torture, and instead watched while they both died horrible, painful deaths. That must have been the hardest thing both of them had ever done, twice, calling out to the heavens for god to heal their children and watching them be ripped away after suffering.

And that’s the problem. These parents were convinced that it’s a good thing to put your trust in an unknowable thing rather than knowable medicine. They bought into the idea that faith, any faith, is automatically good. They genuinely believed in a number of irrational things: 1) that there is a being who definitely takes an active interest in our lives and actively manipulates the universe based on requests from humans, 2) that this same being dislikes human medicine, and 3) that even if propositions 1 and 2 were true, that this being would somehow be worthy of worship.

Make no mistake, this is a couple who were so twisted by their faith that they saw what they believed to be god take their two year old boy from them for no good reason, then continued to worship that same being to the point where they watched another of their children die rather than offend it.

Here’s where I point out that I’m not saying that everybody of faith is irrational. Quite the opposite, I think most people of faith are highly rational when it comes to things like this, because they choose to ignore the dictates of their faith and behave in a fashion that matches the evidence of the world around them. Or they believe in a faith that doesn’t buy into this.

The interpretation of the Bible that the Schaibles church gives is no less valid than any other one. The difference is that most people choose to ignore those things, or at least have the decency to engage in a virtual Cirque du Soleil of theological backflips to demonstrate why that’s not really what’s being said there.

What I’m saying is that if you are going to have faith in an unproven creator, then I still expect you to put that aside when it comes time to make a decision that really matters. Whether it’s climate change, science education, child bearing, or child rearing, if your faith contradicts reason or human decency, I expect you to set it aside. If a person refuses to, I will blame not only them, but the bad ideas that informed their behavior, because people are not good or evil in a vacuum. They are guided by their cultures and the decisions they make are made based on the values they are taught to hold dear. If those values raise the will of a creator being above the health and well-being of children, you end up with people like this couple.

It boils down to this: if I am correct and there is no deity, then two children just died for nothing. If I’m incorrect and this is one who demands that medicine be ignored in favor of prayer, that deity should receive nothing but scorn and disapprobation from every human being with even a shred of decency. I know that I have a lot of friends and readers who are moderate believers, but even if we disagree on whether there is a supernatural, I think we can agree that the homicidal creature worshiped by the Schaibles is either a fiction or a monster, and deserves praise in neither case.


Just want to point out that part of the problem is that the PA legal code has things like this in it (h/t Friendly Atheist, emphasis theirs):

If, upon investigation, the county agency determines that a child has not been provided needed medical or surgical care because of seriously held religious beliefs of the child’s parents, guardian or person responsible for the child’s welfare, which beliefs are consistent with those of a bona fide religion, the child will not be deemed to be physically or mentally abused.

You might also want to look at the multi-part expose that Libby Anne is doing on the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and how they go to great lengths to prevent any laws that would stop child abuse.


9 thoughts on “PA Couple Murders Second Child By Faith

  1. I am absolutely horrified by this entire situation. I cannot fathom letting your child die…

    So God made us, right (if you prescribe to that belief) and God gave us intelligence, etc. if he didn’t want us to have medical or technological advances, wouldn’t he strike us down? I just can’t understand why any church would promote this…I respect their faith, but come on…it’s your kids…

    Then again, the parents who don’t vaccinate for whatever reason are just as bad, and I don’t know what percentage of them are hardcore religious…

    • Personally, I have absolutely no respect for their faith whatsoever. It’s inhuman, abhorrent, and should receive no amount of even cautious excuse. I really don’t understand how people can either think that this is a true and accurate reflection of reality, or worship something that would require them to do that if it was. It’s the problem I keep running into: if they genuinely believed that god wanted them to let their children suffer rather than get them medicine that could make them better, why would they bother praising that god?

      You’re absolutely right about anti-vaxxers. Again, we see parents who absolutely love their children, but because they believe irrational things, they will allow those children and the ones around them to get sick and die. Rather than rely on ancient texts, they rely on ridiculous conspiracy theories, but the premise remains the same: kids die because parents believe stupid things without evidence.

      • I understand what you’re saying, and I can see where you’re coming from. I still can’t really get on board since faith is belief without evidence, and I don’t see why it’s good to do that. Personally, I would have wished that this couple had a much weaker faith, one that failed them when they saw how much their children were hurting and allowed them to go to the doctor. Faith in and of itself is only valuable insomuch as it leads us to action, and the quality of those actions should determine whether strong or weak faith is a positive or negative trait. I think Martin Luther King Jr’s strong faith was a good thing, since it impelled him to take rational actions, but I think Timothy McVeigh’s strong faith was awful.

  2. Pingback: PA Couple Murders Second Child By Faith | Todd DeanTodd Dean

  3. And they cried out, “God, why didn’t you save our child?” And God said, “I tried! I knew there was a chance your child would have this condition, so I made sure there were specialists who could treat that condition, right there in your city!”

    If there is a divine being who created me, She created me with intelligence and reason. She created other people with intelligence and reason. She set the complex laws of the universe in motion and gave us the spark of curiosity to explore them. She guided mankind’s earliest ancestors to discover the healing properties She’d hidden in various plants, setting us on the path that led to modern medicine. She inspires people to become doctors, to spend their lives healing.

    These are gifts from God. Denying them, turning aside from them – that’s a sin. It’s a failure of faith.

    • I get what you’re saying, but even if there was a way to know that objectively, it’s entirely irrelevant. Nobody should be taking the desires of immaterial beings into account when it comes to the health of their children. Whether god loves everyone and gave us medicine or god is immeasurably cruel and wanted these parents to watch their children die (or doesn’t exist) makes no difference because god should never, ever be a consideration in cases like this. It matters very little if the bus that’s about to hit you is blue, pink, or green, best to jump out of the way.

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