RELIGION

In sect that shuns medicine, case against pastor is novel

This Feb. 3, 2017, photo shows the Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Mechanicsburg, Pa. The church's pastor, the Rev. Rowland Foster, has been charged in connection with the pneumonia death of his granddaughter. (AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam)

This Feb. 3, 2017, photo shows the Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Mechanicsburg, Pa. The church's pastor, the Rev. Rowland Foster, has been charged in connection with the pneumonia death of his granddaughter. (AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam)  (The Associated Press)

For the first time in dozens of cases, a pastor in a fundamentalist Christian sect that rejects doctors and drugs has been charged in the death of a child — his own granddaughter — from medical neglect.

The novel prosecution is raising hopes among some advocates that it might spur change in a church that has resisted it.

Faith Tabernacle Congregation has long told adherents to place their trust in God alone for healing. As a result, dozens of children, mostly in Pennsylvania, have died of preventable and treatable illnesses. Church members reject modern medicine as a bedrock tenet of the faith even as some of them have faced manslaughter charges in child deaths dating back 35 years.

Until now, though, no sect leader has ever faced charges.

The pastor was charged under a state law requiring clergy members, teachers and other "mandated reporters" to turn the names of suspected child abusers over to authorities for investigation.