I really wish I didn’t have to keep writing about this all the time on Horror Show Sunday, it’s a tragedy that I have to chronicle far too often, but here we go again. We remember Herbert and Catherine Schaible, who are being prosecuted for the murder of their second child who died of an easily treatable ailment while they just watched and prayed. We remember Jeffrey and Marci Beagley who were found criminally negligent when their teenage son Neil died of complications from an untreated urinary tract infection while they sat at home and prayed, rather than getting him the medical treatment he so desperately needed. There are dozens of other examples I could give, approximately 25 children die each and every year when their religious parents trust prayer over medicine.
[I could have been Neil. My father, a fundamentalist "faith healer" insisted prayer could heal me of my pneumonia when I was dying at ten years of age. Near death, with church people gathered in prayer, I yelled "call an ambulance, I need oxygen!" That broke the spell and I was rushed to a hospital and recovered. ~DS]
Here are another couple of unfortunate examples.
In 2012 in Albany, New York, Greg and JaLea Swezey were found guilty of child endangerment and sentenced to five years of probation after they allowed their 17 year old son Zachery to die of appendicitis, even though it was completely preventable. The Swezey’s were members of the Church of the First Born, a fundamentalist Christian church that endorsed “faith healing.” Amazing how, no matter how much faith the practitioner happens to have, that healing part seems elusive. Unfortunately, because of the ridiculous religious privilege that we have in this country, the Swezey’s were not convicted of second-degree murder and the jury deadlocked on the charge of second degree manslaughter. JaLea had plead guilty to third-degree criminal mistreatment and Greg joined her in that plea, provided he not commit another felony in the next two years. Both parents, as part of their probation, agree to call Child Protective Services each time any of their children become ill, presumably so that CPS can monitor the medical treatment of the sick child. That worked so well in the Schiable case, didn’t it?
But it doesn’t stop there. In the exact same church as the Swezey case, Travis and Wenona Rossiter were arrested on charges of manslaughter because they allowed their 12-year old daughter Syble to die of Type-I diabetes because they were found to have withheld necessary medical treatment from her.
“The 12-year-old had a treatable medical condition and the parents did not provide adequate and necessary medical care to that child. And that, unfortunately, resulted in the death of her on February 5 of this year,” said Albany Police Capt. Eric Carter. Carter was asked if Syble would have survived, had proper medical treatment been given and he responded, ”That’s what I was briefed on. Yes.”
The problem is, these deaths are not out of the ordinary, in fact, there are many faith-healing churches where these kinds of unnecessary deaths happen regularly. In the church the Schiable’s attend, The First Century Gospel Church, there are quite a few child deaths due to their faith-healing beliefs. If you look at the Oregon church that the Beagley’s belonged to, Followers of Christ, their graveyard is full of dead children, murdered for no reason by ignorant parents. These are not single events, these are things that happen over and over and over again and they almost always center around a church that is a well-known problem. This has led to the state of Oregon specifically eliminating religious faith as a defense in the death of a child. There is similar legislation in the process in Pennsylvania, the site of the Schiable case. It seems that lots of states are re-evaluating exactly what it means to provide “religious liberty”. Unfortunately, some, such as the law in Washington state specifically gives Christian Science the right to kill kids. RCW 9A.42.005, reads:
The legislature finds that there is a significant need to protect children and dependent persons, including frail elder and vulnerable adults, from abuse and neglect by their parents, by persons entrusted with their physical custody, or by persons employed to provide them with the basic necessities of life. The legislature further finds that such abuse and neglect often takes the forms of either withholding from them the basic necessities of life, including food, water, shelter, clothing, and health care, or abandoning them, or both. Therefore, it is the intent of the legislature that criminal penalties be imposed on those guilty of such abuse or neglect. It is the intent of the legislature that a person who, in good faith, is furnished Christian Science treatment by a duly accredited Christian Science practitioner in lieu of medical care is not considered deprived of medically necessary health care or abandoned. Prosecutions under this chapter shall be consistent with the rules of evidence, including hearsay, under law.
Hopefully, the more sane members of the Washington legislature may review this passage and remove the parts where Christian Science treatment, which isn’t really treatment at all, is permitted in lieu of actual medicine.
Why do I have to keep doing these stories over and over again? When does the Religious Horror Show stop?