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Child custody case to focus on religious freedom

A highly controversial case has captured the attention of parents in Massachusetts and across the nation. The case centers on the parents of a 2-year-old girl who died of pneumonia late last year. Her parents have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child in connection with her death. They have voluntarily relinquished their child custody rights to their six surviving children as they prepare for court.

The parents are members of a religious sect known as the Faith Tabernacle Church. The group does not believe in seeking medical care. When their daughter became ill last year, the parents did not take her to the doctor for treatment. She developed pneumonia, and was unable to recover. Had she received a normal course of antibiotics, she very well may have survived.

Because the couple took no steps to provide medical care for their daughter, officials place the blame for her death squarely on their shoulders. By voluntarily handing custody over to child protective services, the couple avoided a provision in their release from jail that would have ordered them to seek medical care for the kids, if that need should arise. It is unclear whether they will seek to have their children returned to their care, although many believe that is the likely course of action that will take place.

The children, who range in age from 7 months to 11 years old, have been placed in the care of a foster family. They will be provided with medical attention if needed. As the couple prepares to respond to the criminal charges against them, they have the support of many who believe that they had the right to make medical decisions that were in line with their religious belief system, and should not be stripped of their child custody rights. Others in Massachusetts and elsewhere feel that failing to bring their daughter in for medical treatment was a criminal act that deserves to be addressed in a court of law.  

Source: readingeagle.com, "Berks couple charged in daughter's death will give up custody of other six children", Stephanie Weaver, Feb. 16, 2017

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