The Michigan Supreme Court just issued a ruling that could allow parents who murdered one child to regain custody of their three other kids… all because they happen to be religious.
The story began in early 2017, when Abigail Piland was born without any obvious problems. But when the midwife who helped deliver her checked back the next day, Abigail didn’t look healthy.
The midwife told mother Rachel Piland to take the child to a hospital because the baby “could suffer brain damage or die if not properly cared for.”
Rachel didn’t do that. Instead, she said “God makes no mistakes” and insisted Abigail was fine.
Days later, Abigail was dead. (Rachel and her husband Joshua then prayed for her resurrection. Surprise: That didn’t work, either.)
A medical examiner later attributed it to “unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia and kernicterus,” both jaundice-related problems that were treatable. Abigail never had the chance to see a doctor when blood was coming out of her mouth, she wasn’t eating, or her skin became further discolored. All because her parents put more trust in God than someone who could actually help.
The Pilands were then charged with involuntary manslaughter, which meant they faced up to 15 years behind bars if convicted. That trial has not yet occurred.
But here’s the other issue: Seven weeks after Abigail was murdered, the Pilands’ two other sons were taken from their custody. Last year, the couple had another baby. The baby had the same health issues as Abigail. The parents were prepared to murder her, too, so state officials took the baby shortly after her birth and gave her the treatment her sister never received. That baby girl is still alive — and also in the custody of her maternal grandparents, just like her brothers.
The question now is whether the Pilands should regain custody rights over their kids.
That’s a separate trial, but it’s been held up for more than a year because there’s an argument over whether the jury should be told the Pilands are considered “negligent” parents or if they’re exempt from that characterization on the basis of their faith.
Under Michigan law, a parent cannot be considered “negligent” if medical treatment for a child is denied because that parent was “legitimately practicing his religious beliefs.” The Pilands, who say they were just practicing their faith when they killed their baby, really want the jury to know about this law.
But Ingham County Circuit Judge Laura Baird said that law didn’t apply in this case because the issue in this case involved “neglect” and that was a separate body of law. It’s technical, but that argument would very likely make or break this case for the Pilands.
So they appealed the decision… and won. But prosecutors asked the Michigan Supreme Court to give the case another look.
Yesterday, sadly, the MI Supreme Court ruled that Baird was wrong, upholding the Court of Appeals ruling. That means if the defense can show the parents were simply living out their religious beliefs, they can point to a state law that says they’re not negligent parents, therefore they should retain custody of their kids.
It’s a horrible decision that could result in more dead children if the Pilands regain custody.
In case you’re wondering about their religion:
The Pilands appear to have been involved with a Lansing-based Bible school called Faith Tech Ministries, which describes itself online as nondenominational but similar to other “full gospel” or “Pentecostal” organizations.
Religious conviction should never be a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, but this couple stands a good chance of avoiding jail and regaining custody of their three other children all because they belong to a cult that doesn’t think twice about child sacrifice.
(Thanks to John for the link. Portions of this article were posted earlier)