May 2018 Church & State Magazine - May 2018

Pennsylvania Faith-Healing Parents Convicted Of Manslaughter

  Rokia Hassanein

The parents of a Pennsylvania toddler who died in November 2016 of pneumonia after they refused to treat their child due to their religious beliefs were convicted in March of involuntary manslaughter.

Jonathan Foster and his wife, Grace Foster, were con­victed in a Berks County court of child endangerment. The parents, according to a police affidavit, said that the death of their daughter, Ella Grace, was “God’s will.”

The Associated Press (AP) reported that the Fosters’ defense attorneys argued that they thought their daughter had symptoms of a cold, not pneumonia. The Fosters, however, are members of the Faith Tabernacle Congre­gation, a group that discourages its members from seeking medical help from doctors and using pharmaceutical medicine for treatment.

“Medical personnel testified that the child likely would have survived had she been given treatment,” the AP reported.

The Fosters’ attorney said they’re exploring appealing the conviction and other options. After being charged, the Fosters lost custody of six other children whom authorities said will be kept together but with a family that provides medical treatment when needed.

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