Pastor of Faith Healing Church Charged in Connection With Granddaughter's Preventable Death: Prosecutor

The pastor of a Pennsylvania church is now facing charges related to the death of his own granddaughter.

According to prosecutors in Berks County, Pastor Rowland Foster of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Reading has been charged with failure to report child abuse following the death of 2-year-old Ella Grace Foster, who died of pneumonia in her home in November.

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Pastor Foster's church reportedly believes in faith healing and congregants rely on God alone to treat illnesses. "It's common practice of the church to anoint a person while they are ill," reads the criminal complaint that alleges Foster was with his granddaughter the night before she died.

Pictured: Ella's parents, Jonathan and Grace Foster, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child.

District Attorney John Adams has argued that, as a pastor, Foster is what's called a "mandated reporter" and under Pennsylvania law must report incidents of child endangerment even when his religion doesn't allow modern medical care.

"So he was well aware of the physical condition of this child and he was well aware that this child did not receive any medical care," Adams said, according to the arrest affidavit.

According to The Associated Press, a forensic pathologist determined that Ella would have had a 95 percent chance of survival had she taken a routine course of antibiotics.

The Faith Tabernacle Church was founded in 1971. Since then, 27 children in the church have died of preventable or treatable illnesses, according advocacy group Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, which opposes faith-based medical neglect.

A woman who answered the phone at the church's Philadelphia headquarters declined to comment.

In the arrest affidavit, police say the 71-year-old Foster told them that the church "does not believe in medical care and that he had not been to a doctor in his 70 years." Police said Foster believes Ella's death was "God's will."

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Ella's parents, Jonathan and Grace Foster, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. Pastor Foster is not charged with manslaughter, but with failing to report child abuse.

All three adults have been released pending trial. 

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