Freedom? Not if kid is at risk

Posted: June 13, 2013

ALTHOUGH RELIGIOUS freedom is protected under the First Amendment, prosecutors say the law can get involved if there is reason to believe a child is in danger due to lack of medical care.

"If the police come or if somebody calls the police and they see something, just like child abuse, anything like that would be investigated or looked at or somebody could intercede," said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, who is prosecuting Herbert and Catherine Schaible for a second time.

Such cases can often be tough to prove, Pescatore said.

"I'm doing it through their own words," she said of the Schaibles. "I don't know how else you would prove it unless you had an eyewitness."

There was at least one case in Philadelphia in which parents have been convicted of withholding medical care and the child did not die.

In 1998, Daniel and Anne Marie Foster, members of Faith Tabernacle in North Philadelphia - from which the Schaibles' First Century church split nearly nearly 90 years ago - were found guilty for not seeking treatment for their 2-year-old son's stomach tumor after an anonymous caller alerted the city Department of Human Services.

Outside Pennsylvania, there have several similar cases. In 2011, for instance, an Oregon faith-healing couple was found guilty of not getting treatment for a birthmark over the daughter's eye that developed into a condition known as hemangioma.

Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, has argued that Pennsylvania's laws are too lax on the issue.

"In the state of Pennsylvania, there are religious exemptions to child abuse and neglect laws; we are backward in that sense," he told NBC10. "I think we need to eliminate those exemptions."

" @ChroniclesofSol

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