Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tennessee Supreme Court Will Hear Case of Cult Leader Charged With Child Neglect

According to today's Knoxville News, the Tennessee Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in the criminal case of State v. Sherman, (TN Ct. Crim. App., July 12, 2007). At issue is whether a religious cult leader can be convicted of child neglect for the death of a teenage girl after the girl's mother followed the advice of leader, Ariel Ben Sherman, to rely on spiritual treatment for the girl's cancer. Sherman, a minister in the Universal Life Church, was not married to the girl's mother nor had he adopted the girl. However the mother and daughter lived with him, as did several of his other followers. The state argues that Sherman can be charged with neglect because of his informal custodial or in loco parentis role. The mother, who is also being prosecuted, is raising a free exercise of religion defense.