By: Robin Murray-o'hair
Re: C.S. Church Let Off Hook
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE CHURCH NOT LIABLE
On Monday, April 3, the Minnesota State Appeals Court ruled that
the Christian Science Church is not liable for damages in the
case of a diabetic boy who died because his mother withheld
insulin from him. The boy was eleven at the time of his death.
In the ruling, the court states that "The constitutional right to
religious freedom includes the authority of churches to
independently decide matters of faith and doctrine." The First
Church of Christ, Scientist (better known as the Christian
Science Church) teaches that illness is an illusion of the mind
and that the only way to treat it is through prayer. Further,
the court claimed, the church did not have "deliberate disregard"
of the boy's rights and hence is not liable.
And what of the eleven-year-old's constitutional right to live?
The boy's father, Douglass Lundman, had sued the church and five
members, who had treated the boy with prayer after he lapsed into
a diabetic coma. In August 1993, a Hennepin County jury awarded
Lundman $9 in punitive damages and $5.2 million compensatory
damages from Kathleen and William McKnown (the boy's mother and
step-father), the Christian Science Church, and several church
representatives. A county judge later reduced the award to $1.5
The appeals court did uphold awards of compensatory damages
against the mother, the stepfather, and two "practioners" who
provided "spiritual treatment." The McKowns did not face
manslaughter charges because of state laws protecting faith-
Source: AP, 4/4/95
* WCE 2.0/2394 * American Atheists Online at 512-302-0223