A Pennsylvania pastor was recently charged with the felony of failure to report suspected child abuse. The charge was dropped last Wednesday when the judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence against the pastor.
The pastor in this case is the leader of a fundamentalist Christian church that rejects modern medicine. He is also the grandfather of a two-year old girl who died of pneumonia while under his and her parents’ care.
Pennsylvania law requires adults in certain capacities – such as physicians, law enforcement officials, and clergy – to report signs of abuse. The child’s grandfather (the pastor) came to her side at the request of her parents when the child was experiencing labored breathing and a fever of 104 degrees. He anointed her head with oil, but did not seek assistance from law enforcement nor medical personnel.
A forensic pathologist reported that if the child had been given a routine course of antibiotics, her chance of surviving would have been 95 percent. However, the pastor told police that his church does not believe in medical care. The child’s parents agreed with his decision not to seek medical help and said that their daughter’s death was God’s will.
The child’s parents have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. According to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. §2504, involuntary manslaughter is defined as causing a victim’s death by reckless or grossly negligent conduct.
A conviction of involuntary manslaughter is a first degree misdemeanor that can result in up to five years imprisonment. If the involuntary manslaughter was committed by the parent or caretaker of a child who was under the age of 12, it will then constitute a second degree felony and carry increased penalties.
Because the failure to report suspected child abuse charge is a felony, the District Attorney can refile the count against the pastor, and the D.A.’s office has stated that it intends to do just that. The child’s parents are awaiting trial and it remains to be seen what the outcome of this case will be.
Source: The Morning Call, Pa. pastor won’t face trial in girl’s faith-healing death, April 19, 2017