Prosecutor: Parents' belief in faith healing led to infant's death
May 24th, 2013
05:22 PM ET

Prosecutor: Parents' belief in faith healing led to infant's death

By Sarah Hoye, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='SarahHoyeCNN']

Philadelphia (CNN)–When Brandon Schaible got a rash, his parents prayed.

When the 7-month-old became irritable with diarrhea and lost his appetite, his parents, Catherine and Herbert Schaible, prayed again.

When Brandon had trouble breathing and gasped for air, his parents called a pastor - this, in spite of the fact that a judge had ordered them to call a doctor.

Brandon Schaible died on April 18 from bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and strep, according to the district attorney’s office – all treatable with antibiotics.

On Wednesday his parents were charged with third-degree murder.

The Schaibles are lifelong members of the First Century Gospel Church in Philadelphia, one of several religious groups in the U.S. that relies on faith, and eschews most medical care.

Founded in 1925, the First Century Gospel Church is an offshoot of Faith Tabernacle Congregation, also in Philadelphia. Both churches believe that God - and God alone - heals the sick.

“Herbert’s a father like anyone else. He’s hurt and he’s mourning the death of his son,” said Bobby Hoof, Herbert Schaible’s attorney. “He’s not snubbing his nose at the court. He’s incarcerated because of his faith.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams says the Schaibles’ failure to seek medical attention resulted in the death of their son.

“Instead of caring and nurturing him,” Williams said, “they ultimately caused his death by praying over his body instead of taking him to the doctor.”

The Schaibles are also charged with involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child. In April, the couple admitted to police that their son had exhibited symptoms for several days before he died.

On Friday, Court of Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner ordered the Schaibles held without bail out of fear they were a flight risk.

“When this happened the first time around, the Schaibles had every reason to believe that, because of their faith, they had done nothing wrong,” Lerner said. “I know they’re not ‘sophisticated criminals’ … but the circumstances have changed.”

The Schaibles are already on probation for the 2009 death of another son, Kent, who died from bacterial pneumonia. A jury convicted the couple of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced them to 10 years probation.

Lerner said he was concerned that pastors and members in “churches like the Schaibles” would harbor them.

In a media interview last month, Pastor Nelson Clark of the First Century Gospel Church, said the Brandon and Ken Schaible died because of their parents’ “spiritual lack.”

Mythri Jayaraman, Catherine Schaible's attorney, called her a "completely devoted mother."

“The charges suggest a level of callousness that doesn’t fit who Catherine is,” Jayaraman said.

In addition to Pennsylvania, faith healing deaths have been prosecuted in Michigan, Indiana and Massachusetts.

According to Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), a nonprofit child advocacy group, at least 30 children have died since 1971 in Pennsylvania as a result of a parent's refusal to seek medical treatment because of their belief in faith healing.

Among the 30 are six children who died in 1991 from a measles outbreak in Philadelphia, all whom were born into families that belonged to either First Century Gospel Church or Faith Tabernacle.

“It’s a terrible conflict for these parents. They love their children and can see their child suffering,” said Rita Swan, president of CHILD. “If the laws were clearer, many of these parents would be relived of the pressure. As for the Schaibles, they are remarkably stubborn and extreme.”

Swan began advocating for the removal of religious exemptions from immunizations and parental legal requirements after her son Matthew died in 1977 from bacterial meningitis. She and her husband had relied on Christian Science practitioners to heal him.

“The poor child couldn’t lift an arm,” Swan said. “We prayed, we went to the practitioner. We trusted them.”

For members of faith-healing sects, it is common to believe that sickness is a result of unresolved sin or lack of faith, said Anthea Butler, a professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Faith-healing sects often interpret the Bible literally, citing, for example, Psalm 103: “Bless the Lord, O my soul … Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.”

First Century Gospel Church’s website reinforces that theme, citing the New Testament’s Book of Acts, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name, and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.”

Other religious groups believe that God can heal the sick, and many believers pray to be delivered from illness. The difference is that they, unlike the Schaibles, often seek medical attention in addition to prayer, Butler said.

First Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann says the Schaibles’ actions, not beliefs, are the problem.

“How many kids have to die before it becomes an extreme indifference to the value of human life?” McCann asked. “They killed one child already.”

If convicted of third-degree murder in Brandon’s death, the Schaibles could face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison, Lerner said. They also face an additional 7 to 14 years if a judge decides to revoke their probation in Kent’s death.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christian Science • Christianity • Crime • Culture & Science • Faith & Health

soundoff (2,002 Responses)
  1. Science

    Hey chadie look what Isabell found ..............chad is the king and queen of trolls

    An 'Extinct' Frog Makes a Comeback in Israel

    June 4, 2013 — The first amphibian to have been officially declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been rediscovered in the north of Israel after some 60 years and turns out to be a unique "living fossil," without close relatives among other living frogs.


    June 4, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  2. Morowyn

    So, not once, but TWICE?? I only heard about the boy who died in April! But another in 2009??? DIDN'T THESE QUACKS LEARN THE FIRST TIME??

    I'm sorry, I'm sorry... But whenever your faith KILLS LIVES? Something is wrong.

    June 3, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  3. Science

    Chomp on that bone...................creationists/ID believers. chadie too..................evolution at its best the old croc.

    Time for the horn-y beast to get the hell out of the bedVroooom !!!

    Fourteen Closely Related Crocodiles Existed Around 5 Million Years Ago

    May 21, 2013 — Today, the most diverse species of crocodile are found in northern South America and Southeast Asia: As many as six species of alligator and four true crocodiles exist, although no more than two or three ever live alongside one another at the same time. It was a different story nine to about five million years ago, however, when a total of 14 different crocodile species existed and at least seven of them occupied the same area at the same time, as an international team headed by paleontologists Marcelo Sánchez and Torsten Scheyer from the University of Zurich is now able to reveal.



    Hey faithy/chadie seems like you have not been weaned yet sort of like chadie .............reminds me of a 5 year old ?

    Monkey Teeth Help Reveal Neanderthal Weaning

    May 24, 2013 — Most modern human mothers wean their babies much earlier than our closest primate relatives. But what about our extinct relatives, the Neanderthals?


    Current search on Bing chadie ..........bookmark update chad........3rd one from top of page.

    RDFRS: When Christians become a 'hated minority'


    11,000,000 results Any time

    Evolution wins !

    New Species of Marine Fish from 408 Million Years Ago Discovered in Teruel

    June 3, 2013 — Researchers from the University of Valencia and the Natural History Museum of Berlin have studied the fossilised remains of scales and bones found in Teruel and the south of Zaragoza, ascertaining that they belong to a new fish species called Machaeracanthus goujeti that lived in that area of the peninsula during the Devonian period. The fossils are part of the collection housed in the Palaeontology Museum of Zaragoza.


    Splat Chad

    June 3, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • Morowyn

      Love this!

      June 3, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • Science


      Thanks I love the truth too.

      June 4, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  4. Simpson Discovers Chloroform's Potency

    Sir James Young Simpson, an eminent Scottish obstetrician, introduced the medical use of chloroform as an anesthetic in Edinburgh, Scotland, in November 1847.

    Simpson cited the biblical account of the deep sleep cast on Adam when God took the first man's rib and used it to make Eve. The argument continued until 1853, when Queen Victoria (ruler of England from 1837-1901) chose to be chlo-roformed for the birth of her son Prince Leopold (1853-1884).

    June 3, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Simpson Discovers Chloroform's Potency

      The inspiration that paved the way for modern anesthetics.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  5. Loveoneanother

    I believe that adults have the right to their beliefs but children count on their parents to take care of them. If, as an adult you choose to not go to a doctor that is your business but when you are a parent you owe it to your child to take care of them to your best ability.

    June 3, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • BC

      When you're a parent you owe it your child to maintain your own health. A parent dying from a stupid interpretation of a stupid iron age belief is also cruelty to the child.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  6. Science

    You to the peachy one...................No red horn-y devil !

    Earth’s timeline ................chad remember this long ago..........L4H but me on the list for this.

    Trace our planet's geological and biological ages............better than the bibles timeline.


    Church Refuses to Host Troops Over Scouts' New Gay Policy
    NBC News·16 hours ago

    See also: More stories ·
    Top stories

    Big circle here chadie...................

    look what shows up on Bing 16 hours ago


    By the way HAR/chadie..........your header on post was ............see below........so do not go deleting comments !

    Your request was successfully submitted.

    Bing Webmaster Tools

    June 2, 2013 at 8:41 pm |

    I thought this could only happen in third world countries. Wow!!

    June 2, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
  8. Kinosaur

    My last paycheck was $7500 working 12 h0urs a week 0nline. My sisters friend has been averaging 11k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out. The potential with this is endless. This is what I do, Rich4.C0M_

    June 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  9. lastofall

    It is the case of blind leaders leading the blind of a false teacher teaching their hearers falsely. And not even realizing they had the Lord's Word in front of them telling them exactly what to do the whole while. "They that are healthy need not the physician, but they that are sick". Every Word that proceeds out of Christ's mouth is Truth only, such as with this. He said this Truth so that we would recognize His role of calling sinners to repentance; but this is still the Truth, which is exactly why He said it, because it is the Truth; and we are without excuse if we ignore what He tells us.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • midwest rail

      The Schaibles, and their pastor, used the exact same book you use to justify their actions.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  10. Julie

    My daughter had epilepsy – I didn't understand about faith enough to think she could be healed through Jesus – took her to the doctor and followed all the directions – however, she was allergic to the medicine and was told she could not only take the medicine that would stop the seizures but was told she can no longer take any of it due to the anti-convulsant meds were destroying her red blood cells. I was a person to always pray but for some reason I didn't understand like most of you how something that I am witnessing is really there and here is the Dr telling me nothing can be done and am thinking what am I going to do – I remember standing in the parking lot that very day thinking what to do and held my daughter's hand and told Jesus from this day forward I am going to believe without doubting my daughter will never ever have another seizure – that she is healed and I didn't care what it looked like and when people asked how she was I would tell them she is healed – I have to tell you from the moment in that parking lot she never ever had another seizure – ever – the words saying she "has" epilepsy never came out of my mouth again – I believed with all my heart – that was over 27 years ago so I have to tell you I do believe in miracles and that was one right there – When all else failed I believed and God heard –

    June 1, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Tamsyn

      1) But you took her in the first place.
      2) There are different anti-seizure medications available, even back then. Your doctor should have tried other medications.
      3) Fully 2/3 of children outgrow childhood epilepsy and seizures. Your daughter may have been on the threshold of outgrowing it.
      4) If you daughter broke her leg, would you "pray" over it?

      I am not trying to shake your faith, indeed, I'm glad you have it. God helps those who help themselves, and all. I am simply saying that more likely than not, there is a natural explanation, rather than a supernatural one, and these parents who let their children die are repugnant parents who should never be allowed to care for children again, much less produce any more.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  11. Science

    Hey all creationists ...........chadie too....the truth below !

    Ancient life...............3.5 billion years ago.............NO god(s) or horn-y red devil (666 the beast) never has been

    Disappearance of Stromatolites, Earliest Visible Manifestation of Life: Ancient Enigma Solved?

    May 28, 2013 — The widespread disappearance of stromatolites, the earliest visible manifestation of life on Earth, may have been driven by single-celled organisms called foraminifera.


    June 1, 2013 at 6:45 am |
  12. Ashley H.

    If this family professes Christianity, Jesus himself made mention in the scriptures of persons who would need physicians.

    (Matthew 9:12) . . .Hearing [them], he said: “Persons in health do not need a physician, but the ailing do.

    True Jesus did heal person through miracles, but his healing ALWAYS healed the person. Even with his apostles after his death for the that short time that they were able to perform miracles, the person that was being healed, was healed!

    The scriptures show that healings etc were to be replaced by the unsurpassing way of Love. Those things would not identify Christianity but rather love.

    The scriptures mention not taking blood and abstaining from spiritism. Two things that some turn to for medical help but are condemned by God.

    True Christians do all they can to value and sustain their gift of life by obtaining medical care that will not conflict with BIBLE COMMAND...not just some made up thoughts of a professed Christian group.

    I really hate that these poor children had to suffer this way.
    Jehovah God is love and he will bring these children back in the promised resurrection where there will never have to be sick again and die.
    (Revelation 21:4) . . .And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”

    Take care and these children and others will be in my prayers.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:32 am |
  13. Lala

    They look like they could be siblings... I wouldn't be surprised.

    May 31, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Now that you mention it.....................

      May 31, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  14. Dyslexic doG

    Christianity is nothing more than a pagan religion that caught on. It has its roots in other, older pagan religions that were common in the Mediterranean region before the supposed life of Jesus. There isn't a single original thing about it. Every tenant, and every story is borrowed from other religions. From the Garden of Eden, to the Great Flood, to the virgin birth, to the miracles, to the resurrection – all borrowed concepts from other religions.

    Mark wrote the first gospel several decades after the supposed life of Jesus – yet he is able to quote him, word for word? How is that? He never met him. And the other three gospels were copied from Mark. Whether Jesus was divine, or just a prophet, was an item of debate amongst early followers, and wasn't decided for good until the council of Nicea in the fourth century. It was put to a vote, and "divine" won by a narrow margin! A vote!

    Christianity is no different than astrology, fairy tales, and psychics. It's nothing but a conglomeration of myths, perpetuated by those craving money and power.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Actually, only Matthew and Luke were copied from Mark. John, not so much, in fact hardly at all. That's why Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called "synoptic," meaning "seen together."

      June 1, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
  15. ronvan

    STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!! This is just another example of people whose Faith & Beleifs are misguided, misused and inexcusable!! FAITH & BELEIF are two words that ALL of us apply & use on a daily basis! BUT, while I have faith & beleive in my God & Savior, HE also gave me a BRAIN! i have MANY unanswered questions! IF an atheist & "expert" religious person were to have a conversation over religion, NEITHER side could prove with 100% facts that God, Jesus, or stories in the bible are true or false! WHY is it that we hear about "religious treasures", books, schrolls, etc., YET, WE, cannot see them? You would think that if they PROVE the stories we have been brought up with, are true, then they SHOULD be viewed by ALL? For me, personally, it brings up the BIG question, that MAYBE they disprove what we have been taught?

    May 31, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • faith

      i no what u mean. i'm an atheist. i don't understand why my fellow atheists can't c the abundant evidence that god is real, u no? it is so obvious and clear. y can't my brethren, my dear atheist brothers and sisters, face the facts once and 4 all?

      May 31, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Akira

      And BAM!! Faith has broken the 9th Commandment again by lying.

      May 31, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Matt

      @ faith

      You completely contradicted yourself – you said:

      "i no what u mean. i'm an atheist. "

      OK, you said you are an atheist...that means you DO NOT BELIEVE IN A GOD.

      then immediately after you say:

      " i don't understand why my fellow atheists can't c the abundant evidence that god is real, u no?"

      If you think god is real...you ain't an atheist.


      demons r real, 2, unfortunately. and they still harass and infest people. they r perverted, above all. they r twisted sicker than snakes. and we have them right here, right now.

      May 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • Fact

      Most convicted child raists, murderers, violent offenders are Christian. Most people who kill their fetuses are Christian. Want to talk perverted? There you are. Lots of demons infesting them, huh? And yeah, matt, faith didn't contradict herself, she's a liar. And she does it in the name of Jesus. She is the sickest, most perverted person on here, because she perverts the Word of Our Lord.

      May 31, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Science

      Hello FACT meet truth !

      Hey all creationists ...........chadie too....the truth below !

      The fairy in the sky DID NOT create US !

      Ancient life...............3.5 billion years ago.............NO god(s) or horn-y red devil (666 the beast) never has been

      Disappearance of Stromatolites, Earliest Visible Manifestation of Life: Ancient Enigma Solved?

      May 28, 2013 — The widespread disappearance of stromatolites, the earliest visible manifestation of life on Earth, may have been driven by single-celled organisms called foraminifera.



      The University of Sydney.........................geology..............the dirt guys.

      Precious opal veinlets in a sandstone from central Australia.


      Answer to opal mystery shows Red Centre's links to Red Planet

      31 May 2013

      The dramatic geological events that created opal, Australia's national gemstone, have been described for the first time by a University of Sydney researcher.


      + the damn fossils ..............works better than the BIBLE !

      Scientists Recover Wooly Mammoth Blood ..................cloning could happen maybe

      Posted by Soulskill on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @01:52PM
      from the wooly-mammoth-vampires-very-excited dept.


      New study restores famed fossil to "bird" branch

      Wednesday May 29, 2013 | Alicia Chang for The Associated Press


      AND chadie has a link on Bing

      Quarterback's next play: Going long with the Bible – CNN Belief ...


      Feb 01, 2013 · Since we've got Chad buybull ... Jurassic Park came out. Now that it has been found, ... You have nothing but a 2000 year old stone age book written ...


      All creationists...............a turtle.............but is it to old to have come from the ark ?

      Or chad crawled into his shell on the ark and finally found his way out .............you know chad ?

      The mystery of how the turtle got its shell has finally been solved by scientists studying a 260-million-year-old fossil.

      Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/scientists-have-figured-out-how-the-turtle-got-its-unique-hard-shell-2013-5#ixzz2UspYoTOm

      Prehistoric Park : T-Rex Returns – Episode 1


      Remember chad........... the talking donkey you like so much might of chewed on that BONE.............that created eve.

      Chomp Chomp.............make sure to look up creationists for the next big chondrite !!!

      June 1, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  16. Science

    Star dust we are.

    Pebbly Rocks Testify to Old Streambed On Mars..........and the asteroid that flattened mars aye chadfie !

    May 30, 2013 — Detailed analysis and review have borne out researchers' initial interpretation of pebble-containing slabs that NASA's Mars rover Curiosity investigated last year: They are part of an ancient streambed.

    More information about Curiosity is online at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl , http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ .

    You can follow the mission on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .


    Easy to do ............shows you chadie that there is NO red horn-y thingy.

    For all creationists and ID believers...............IT only takes minutes to figure IT out. No fairy in the sky needed !

    New Device Can Extract Human DNA With Full Genetic Data in Minutes

    May 6, 2013 — Take a swab of saliva from your mouth and within minutes your DNA could be ready for analysis and genome sequencing with the help of a new device.


    Have a great life and look up for that falling chondrite

    May 31, 2013 at 6:43 am |
  17. C. Keylard

    The ignorant barbarians who let their children die of treatable diseases are murderers. There is no excuse for this.

    May 31, 2013 at 5:13 am |
    • Headless baby excuse

      Hospitals are not as safe as you make them out to be.

      June 1, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
  18. North Korea is just like christianity

    In North Korea :
    You are afraid of offending the all-powerful god ruler because of what he could do to you.
    They tell you which thoughts are good and which thoughts are bad
    They tell you every other kind of christianity Communism is bad and non christians non-communists are evil in carnet.
    They tell you that their words are THE TRUTH and because of that, you must believe what they tell you and to question it is a SIN AGAINST THE godSTATE!
    They tell you that you will be horribly punished for the rest of your life if you don’t do what they tell you, believe what they say or think wrong thoughts

    May 29, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • faith

      Christianity is nothing like north korea. nk can't c u doing everything. nk bluffs. nk couldn't whoop whoopi goldberg. nk doesn't cast people into hell.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:21 pm |

      Faith, you are incorrect. It is exactly like North Korea (DPRK). They even have their own little version of hell called prison camps.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • TDM

      You are quite ignorant of world matters, aren't you, faith? Your naivety is quite astounding, really.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  19. Ken Margo

    lionlylamb is obviously into bondage. He likes getting beat on.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • faith

      now ur talkin

      May 29, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
  20. Honey Badger Don't Care

    If the flood occurred in 2348BCE (Answers in Genesis) and the Exodus happened in 1444BCE (AIG) and the Israelites were in captivity for 400 years (AIG) isn’t there a problem?
    That means that in 504 years eight people went from being the only people on Earth to a population big enough to not only rule Egypt but to enslave themselves.


    May 29, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Hmmmm......

      "That means that in 504 years eight people went from being the only people on Earth to a population big enough to not only rule Egypt but to enslave themselves. "

      You forget, Christians use Duggar math... One breeding pair = 18 children... and if you factor in marrying first cousins for the next generation, well, you do the math...

      May 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.