A Pennsylvania couple is on trial after their 2-year old daughter died of pneumonia because they refused to seek medical attention for her due to their religious beliefs.
Jonathan and Grace Anne Foster have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child after the 2016 death of their daughter, Ella Grace Foster.
The Rev. Rowland Foster, the girl’s grandfather, was asked to pray over her and massage her with oils.
The Upper Tulpehocken Township couple’s daughter died in her father’s arms after she suffered from a sore throat and had trouble breathing the night before. The girl stopped breathing the next morning.
In a previous hearing, a forensic pathologist testified Ella’s uncontrollable coughing and troubled breathing was due to acute pneumonia, a finding reached after he performed an autopsy on the child. He also stated any reasonable person would have immediately consulted a doctor. However, defense attorneys claim Ella’s health declined rapidly and the parents did what seemed right at that time. Ella’s father said her death was “God’s will.”
The parents have already given up custody of their six children, aged from 1 to 12, after prosecutors demanded their bail have a condition that would enforce proper medical care for them.
Authorities stated that the children would be kept together with a family that believed in medicinal care.
Prosecutors also sought charges for the grandfather, a pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church, for his failure to report child abuse, but the case was dismissed in December for lack of evidence.
The previous hearings for this particular case have all been subjected to disturbance after members from the couple’s church hummed from the gallery as the trial proceeded.
Assistant District Attorney Katie Lehman asked Judge M. Theresa Johnson to prohibit any sort of noise or disturbance from the supporters of the couple’s church.
Faith Tabernacle Church does not believe in medicine. Ella’s grandfather, the Rev. Rowland Foster claimed, “He hadn’t been to the doctor in 70 years.” In fact, it is just one of the many churches that do not believe in most forms of medicinal care.
The Associated Press found at least 27 cases of otherwise preventable deaths of children related to Faith Tabernacle Church have been reported since 1971.
Pennsylvania provides religious exemption for parents, who rely on religious healing, to state child abuse laws. However, this exemption does not extend to the criminal court.
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