MINNESOTA HIGH COURT ANNULS CASE AGAINST CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS

The Minnesota Supreme Court Friday upheld the dismissal of manslaughter charges against two Christian Scientist parents whose child died after receiving spiritual treatment.The high court ruled that a grand jury's indictment of Kathleen and William McKown for second-degree manslaughter violated the couple's constitutional right to due process. The McKowns' son, Ian Lundman, died in May 1989 of what was later diagnosed as diabetes after receiving Christian Science spiritual treatment. Prosecutors contended that the couple's failure to obtain medical treatment for the child constituted manslaughter. The McKowns argued that the Minnesota child-neglect statute specifically authorized them to choose spiritual treatment for their child. The Minnesota child-neglect provision reads in part that "if a parent ... in good faith selects and depends upon spiritual means or prayer for treatment or care of disease ... this treatment shall constitute 'health care.... Almost all states have similar provisions in their child-neglect statutes. A trial court judge originally dismissed the charges against the McKowns and a Christian Science practitioner on due-process and other grounds. The state appeals court upheld the dismissal on due-process grounds alone. The state Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court ruling. "The spiritual treatment and prayer exception to the child-neglect statute expressly provided respondents the right to 'depend upon' Christian Science healing methods so long as they did so in good faith," the high court ruled.

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