A self-proclaimed pastor convicted in the faith healing death of a 15-year old girl has been exposed as a hypocrite, two months after his death, after it was revealed that he sought medical treatment for his own conditions.
Jessica Lynn Crank died in September, 2002 from a rare form of bone cancer.
Ariel Ben Sherman, who described himself as the girl’s ‘spiritual father,’ convinced her mother, Jacqueline Crank, to ignore medical advice and instead treat to solely rely on faith healing.
Sherman, who died last month, pastored New Life Ministries (also referred to as ‘New Life Tabernacle’ and ‘Universal Life Church’) — a small home-based religious group in Lenoir City, Tennessee.
Jessica Crank was a member of his congregation.
Both Crank and Sherman initially faced felony child abuse charges for allegedly failing to heed advice from medical professionals that Jessica needed treatment for a large growth on her shoulder.
On May 6, 2002 Crank took her daughter to a walk-in emergency clinic because the girl had a basketball-sized growth on her shoulder.
Clinic personnel arranged for Jessica to be seen that same day at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, but the teenager never arrived.
Authorities finally found her on June 26, in a house leased by Sherman.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Jessica, her mother and her younger brother, Israel, were living there, along with several members of Sherman’s New Life Tabernacle group.
But by the time she was located her cancer was too advanced to save her.
In 2003 a judge dismissed the charge against Sherman, ruling the state failed to show minister Sherman had any responsibility for Jessica Crank. But in 2008 the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the neglect case against Sherman.
In 2009 another judge declined to dismiss child neglect charges against Jacqueline Crank and Sherman.
A trial date was finally set in May last year — nearly ten years after the girl died.
Sherman and Crank were both found guilty of misdemeanor child neglect. They were sentenced to 11 months, 29 days of unsupervised probation.
After Sherman died, the Knoxville News Sentinel said
One legal argument ended with Sherman’s death — whether Sherman owed a legal duty of care to the teen.
Still up before the appellate court to decide is whether the state’s spiritual exemption law that allows parents to forego medical treatment in favor of faith healing is in violation of the U.S. Constitution and its equal protection guarantees.
“These are major constitutional issues,” Harvey said, “and everybody involved is anxiously awaiting what the court says on these issues.”
Sherman’s tangles with the law and his career as a leader of religious sects didn’t start in Loudon County.
Criminal Court records in Polk County, Ore., show he was charged in 1985 with three counts of criminal mistreatment and two counts of fourth-degree assault.
Those charges, dismissed seven years later, allegedly involved abuse of children in a religious commune he had established in West Salem, Ore.
Earlier this week the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that
when it came to his own cancer and pneumonia, Ariel Ben Sherman was treated in a hospital in South Carolina, records show.
“It’s sad and ironic,” Loudon County Deputy District Attorney General Frank Harvey said. […]
Sherman’s death certificate showed he died at age 78 on Nov. 28 in a South Carolina hospital of respiratory arrest while being treated for small-cell cancer.
“He (Sherman) lived by a different standard,” Harvey said.
Should a state’s spiritual exemption law allow parents to forego medical treatment in favor of faith healing?