Jessica Crank had a swollen shoulder. Not just swollen: In May 2002, when the teenager’s mother, Jacqueline, finally took her to a walk-in clinic in Lenoir City, Tennessee, the nurse practitioner found signs of bone disintegration and “other indications of a serious medical condition” on the x-ray. She called the University of Tennessee emergency room and had them prepare for Jessica’s arrival and urgent treatment.
But Jessica never made it to the E.R., just as she and her mother didn’t show up at the hospital when a chiropractor had urged them to seek medical care earlier in February. Instead, as Jaqueline Crank later testified in court, she chose to turn to “Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Savior, my Healer, Defender, for [Jessica’s] healing.”
Crank “knew there was a problem” with the “grapefruit-sized tumor” on her daughter’s shoulder. But she believed Jesus “was the only Healer,” she said, “and through that belief we took it in our hands to pray for her, to heal her with prayer.”
It did not work. After the walk-in-clinic nurse called the police and Jessica was taken to the hospital, she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Getting medical care sooner likely wouldn’t have saved her, but it would have helped manage her symptoms and “positively impacted the quality of her life,” her pediatric oncologist testified. Jessica died in state custody at the age of 15.
Meanwhile, religious defenses against child-abuse charges have recently been in the news. This summer, an Indiana woman used the state’s newly passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, as an argument against felony child-abuse charges. Prosecutors allege she beat her son with a coat hanger, leaving 36 bruises; she justified her actions via scripture, arguing that “[sparing] the rod spoils the child.”