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Denial of Medical Care for Religious Reasons

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CaseState of Tennessee v. Jacqueline Crank

Issue:  Must a child neglect conviction be vacated because of the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act or the Spiritual Treatment Exemption Act?

Facts:  Defendant was convicted of child neglect for rejecting advice to medically treat her daughter’s tumor, relying instead on spiritual prayer.  Defendant contends that the conviction must be reversed or remanded because of laws concerning religious observances.  The Spiritual Treatment Exemption Act provides that a child is not neglected when treated “through prayer alone,” among other things, which Defendant argued was unconstitutionally vague and in violation of the Establishment Clause.  The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act requires that any burden on the free exercise of religion must satisfy strict constitutional scrutiny, which the Defendant argued required a hearing on that question.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court affirmed the conviction. The court held that any constitutional problems with the Spiritual Treatment Exemption would only result in severing the problematic provision, which would not impact the conviction.  The court held that the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act did not apply because it was passed after the offense was committed and does not apply retroactively.

Review Granted:  April 15, 2014.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the supreme court will affirm for the reasons stated by the intermediate court.