Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Faith Healing Mother's Conviction Upheld In Tennessee

In State of Tennessee v. Crank, (TN Ct. Crim. App., Sept. 26, 2013), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction of Jacqueline Crank on one charge of child abuse or neglect related to the 2002 death of her teenage child.  The mother turned to prayer instead of medical treatment for her daughter who eventually died of cancer.  Tennessee has an exemption (TN Stat 39-15-402(c)) from child abuse charges for treatment  "through prayer alone in accordance with the tenets or practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof in lieu of medical or surgical treatment." This exemption was apparently too narrow to cover Crank's attempts at faith healing.  Crank argued that this exemption is vague, and violates the Establishment Clause and equal protection clause, apparently attempting to get the court for that reason to strike down the entire child neglect statute. The court held, however, that even if the exemption is unconstitutional, it would just strike it from the law and uphold the remainder of the child neglect statute.  The court also refused to apply the Tennessee Preservation of Religious Freedom Act to the case because it was not enacted until several years after the prosecution in this case was commenced.