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TN Supreme Court Upholds Child Neglect Conviction For Mother Who Relied on Faith Healing to Cure Daughter of Cancer

Press release from the Administrative Office of the Tennessee Courts; February 13, 2015:

The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed the conviction of an East Tennessee woman for child neglect based upon her failure to obtain medical treatment for her daughter.

In 2002, Jacqueline Crank’s adolescent daughter developed a tumor on her shoulder and began to experience extreme pain. Crank took her daughter to see a chiropractor and a nurse practitioner, both of whom advised that immediate emergency care was needed. Crank, a member of a small congregation of the Universal Life Church in Lenoir City, claimed that she had prayed for her daughter in accordance with her religious beliefs instead of seeking medical care.

The Department of Children’s Services intervened and authorized medical treatment. Crank’s daughter was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, and she died in September 2002 at the age of 15. The trial court found Crank guilty of child neglect and sentenced her to one year of probation. The trial court ruled that Crank did not qualify for the spiritual treatment exemption, a law that protects parents who provide “treatment by spiritual means 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.” The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed and upheld the decision of the trial court.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, Crank claimed that the spiritual treatment law was too vague to give her fair warning that she could be prosecuted for her conduct. She also argued that the law violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court held that the law was not overly vague. Because Crank would not prevail in the appeal of her conviction even if the exemption were found unconstitutional, the Court concluded that the Establishment Clause issue should not be decided in this case.

Read the State v. Jacqueline Crank opinion, authored by Justice Gary R. Wade.

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Health Care News NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Rep. Curry Todd Says He Has Cancer

A state lawmaker who has repeatedly attracted national attention announced to a legislative committee Tuesday he has an incurable form of cancer.

Rep. Curry Todd, a Collierville Republican, revealed his condition during a House Commerce Committee meeting Tuesday while arguing for HB1087, a proposal requiring insurance companies to pay for oral chemotherapy treatments.

“This is not about me. This is about helping those other cancer patients out there, and that’s what I’m about,” he told reporters in a press conference, saying he has known about his disease for four years and added it is incurable. He said he does not yet require treatment for his cancer, specifically called macroglobulinemia.

Todd said he announced his condition, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, in an effort to help people would would benefit from the bill if it were to become law. The measure is getting pushback from the insurance industry, which sees the measure as a government mandate. The measure will get picked up again in the committee Tuesday, April 10.

The representative found himself in the national spotlight repeatedly over the last few years, most recently for his DUI arrest in Nashville last October, which also included charges of possession of a gun while intoxicated and refusing a Breathalyzer test. Todd was the sponsor of legislation years before to allow gun carry permit holders to bring their guns with them into bars so long as they abstained from drinking.

Todd also drew attention to himself in 2010 when he likened pregnant women in the country illegally to “rats.”

The representative declined to comment on how his condition would affect his pending DUI charge in court, saying the question was “inappropriate.” He said he planned to seek reelection.