NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An East Tennessee woman convicted of child neglect in her teenage daughter’s cancer death is asking the state Supreme Court to declare that she is innocent because she relied on prayer to heal the girl.
Jacqueline Crank was sentenced to unsupervised probation after her 15-year-old daughter died of Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2002. Despite the light sentence, Crank has continued to pursue the case, arguing that faith-healing should be legal for everyone. The Tennessee Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Thursday.
State law makes it a crime to fail to provide medical care to children, but there is an exception for those who rely on prayer alone for healing. However, the Spiritual Treatment Exemption Act applies only to faith healing performed by an accredited practitioner of a recognized church or religious denomination.
In turning to prayer, Crank relied on the advice of Ariel Ben Sherman, who called himself the girl’s “spiritual father.” Testimony showed Sherman was accredited by the Universal Life Church, which will accredit anyone who fills out an application.
Records from the Department of Children’s Services said Crank and her children lived “in a cult type religious environment with many people (estimated 30) living in their home and all of whom they consider ‘family,’ although none are actually related.”