What’s the old saying? Never talk religion or politics at the dinner table? A case, not from North Carolina, may inspire a quick tweak to the rule: Never talk religion and the justice system at the dinner table. For the members of one couple’s community, though, that will be nigh onto impossible.
The couple belongs to a small fundamentalist Christian congregation that their parents and their grandparents belonged to before them. In 2009, one of their children developed pneumonia. Instead of seeking medical help, they followed their religious beliefs and prayed for his recovery. When he died, they were charged and then found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
This spring, their 8-month-old died, and prosecutors have filed third-degree murder charges against them. At a recent hearing, they read prepared statements explaining that their religious beliefs kept them from seeking outside help. That was why, they seemed to be saying, they went against the condition of their probation that they were to get medical attention for any of their children who was sick.
Prosecutors say that the boy lingered for two weeks while the parents prayed for him. According to defense counsel, though, the autopsy showed that the boy’s symptoms were only present for a couple of days. The attorney said, too, that the mother had cared closely for her child, feeding him and making him physically comfortable — all acts that showed none of the malice necessary to make a murder charge stick.
In addition to the murder charges, prosecutors expect to charge them with involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and conspiracy. While the couple is in prison awaiting their formal arraignment in July, their seven children are in foster care.
Source: WVNS-TV 50, “Pair face murder trial in 2nd faith-healing death,” Maryclaire Dale (Associated Press), June 12, 2013