Pastor: Couple's 'Spiritual Lack' Caused Sons' Deaths

By Danielle Johnson
|  Sunday, Apr 28, 2013  |  Updated 8:24 PM EDT
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Pastor: Couple's 'Spiritual Lack' Caused Sons' Deaths

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The pastor of a Philadelphia couple, who turned to prayer instead of medical attention for their two dying sons, says the couple’s ‘spiritual lack’ is to blame.

In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pastor Nelson Clark of the First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park, says that Herbert and Catherine Schaible have some sort of flaw they need to correct to prevent future deaths.

“They realize they must get back to God, to seek wisdom from him, to find out where the spiritual lack is in their heart and life…so this won’t happen again, Clark told the paper.

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The Schaibles, fundamentalist Christians who believe in the power of prayer instead of modern medicine, were sentenced to 10 years of probation after their 2-year-old son, Kent, died in 2009 from pneumonia.  As part of their probation, the judge ordered them to take their seven other children, ranging in age from 8 to 17, to the doctor for regular checkups or whenever a child showed any sign of illness.

Last week, authorities announced that the couple’s 8-month-old son, Brandon, recently died. It wasn’t clear when the child died or the cause of death, according to investigators.  A judge ruled Monday that the couple had violated their probation by failing to take him to the hospital. The judge ordered that Schaibles remaining children be removed from their Northeast home.

"You did that once, and the consequences were tragic," Judge Benjamin Lerner said, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

Authorities have yet to file criminal charges in the Brandon’s death, after he suffered with diarrhea and breathing problems for at least a week. But charges could be filed once authorities pinpoint how the boy died. An official cause of death is pending an autopsy, according to police.

Clark, 71, has been ministering to the Schaibles in recent days and says that if one of their other children were to get sick they would not call a doctor, even now.

“He knows he has to obey God rather than man,” Clark told the paper.

Pennsylvania law says parents have a legal duty to protect their children's health and safety, although the law does not specify if or when medical care must be sought.

Prosecutors said the Kent could have been saved with basic medical care -- probably even over-the-counter medication -- but the couple relied on prayer instead.

Defense attorneys argued that their clients did not know how sick the child was, and their beliefs played no role in their decision.
 

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