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Child custody dispute likely to focus on religious rights

A difficult custody case may be on the horizon for a couple that is charged in the death of their 2-year-old daughter. The couple are parents to six other children and recently relinquished child custody to state child protective services. Many readers in Texas and across the nation expect that the couple will fight to be reunited with their children and will claim that they were well within their rights to avoid seeking medical treatment for the child who lost her life. The matter is sure to spark debate on how to balance parental rights and the best interests of the child.

The couple is part of a religious sect known as the Faith Tabernacle Church. Part of their religious practice involves avoiding medical care. Because of those beliefs, they did not seek treatment when their toddler fell ill late last year. The 2-year-old developed pneumonia and would have likely survived had she received a commonly available course of antibiotic treatment.

However, the child succumbed to her condition, and the parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. As they prepare to fight that battle in court, they have chosen to give up custody of their surviving children to their county child protective services department. The kids, who range in age from 7 months to 11 years old, will be placed in the care of a foster family and will receive any necessary medical care.

This case poses difficult questions for the court and for the public in general. The rights of parents to make choices on behalf of their children are firmly cemented in law. However, many people believe that seeking appropriate medical care is an obligation that parents are expected to uphold. While the parents may have voluntarily ceded care of their children at the current time, it is likely that they will fight for their child custody rights as the matter moves forward. For families in Texas that share similar religious beliefs, this case may be of interest.

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

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