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No Prison for Couple Who Prayed While Son Died

A fundamentalist Christian couple from Philadelphia, who prayed instead of calling a doctor as their son died of pneumonia, has been spared prison time.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible admitted they refused to call a doctor as their two-year-old son Kent's cold turned into pneumonia in January 2009. They said they were following the rules of the controversial First Century Gospel Church, which tells members it is a sin to use medicine. It sees medicine as a lack of faith in God.

"We tried to fight the devil, but in the end the devil won," the couple told police.

That defense didn't fly with a jury, which convicted them of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in December.

But on Wednesday a judge spared them prison time, noting that prison would not address the problem or serve the needs of society.

Judge Carolyn Engel Temin said that as adults, the couple is entitled to follow church teachings shunning medicine, but the law says parents may not make that decision for their children.

“The welfare of the child is more important than the religious freedom of the parents,” Judge Temin said.

She ordered the couple to take their remaining seven children for regular check-ups with a doctor. They were also sentenced to 10 years probation.

They couple both grew up in the church and have never received medical care, apart from help from a midwife who attended the home births of the children.

Following the guilty verdict Pastor Nelson Clark said, "The legal community is trying to force our church group to put them in the hands of this flawed medical system, when they have chosen to put them in the hands of a perfect God, who does not make mistakes."


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