Lebanon pastor cleared of suspected child abuse in grandchild's death

A pastor from Lebanon whose congregation keeps away from modern medicine has been cleared of child abuse charges in connection with the death of his two-year-old granddaughter due to pneumonia last year.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Josidaniel)Faith Tabernacle, worship. 27 October 2005.

In a pretrial hearing on Dec. 18, Berks County Judge Theresa Johnson ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove that 72-year-old Rowland G. Foster was guilty of child abuse in Ella Grace Foster's death. The Faith Tabernacle Congregation pastor did not make a statement on Monday, but a forensic pathologist said the child would have lived if she had been treated with antibiotics, The Associated Press detailed.

Police said Rowland Foster anointed the child's head with oil when he was called to her home. When the death of the child was reported to the authorities, the pastor told them that he had never gone to a doctor. His attorney also said his client just did what he believed was best for the young child.

Meanwhile, Jonathan D. Foster and Grace A. Foster, the girl's father and mother, still face charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. They are set to face court in March

Earlier this year, The Reading Eagle reported that the girl's parents had voluntarily surrendered custody of their six other children. They could be jailed for up to 12 years and six months if proven guilty.

Berks County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan H. Kurland previously pointed out that Pastor Foster was mindful of the child's sickness and had reason to suspect that the lack of medical intervention led to his granddaughter's death. He added that the law required the pastor to relay that suspicion to authorities.

State law dictates that religious or spiritual leaders must report child abuse. However, the report is not mandatory for medical neglect caused by religious belief unless it ends in the child's death.