Faith healer convicted in girl’s faith healing death was a hypocrite

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.

May 8, 2012: WBIR reports on the convictions of Sherman and Crank

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.

What do you think?

Should a state’s spiritual exemption law allow parents to forego medical treatment in favor of faith healing?

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Mother, spiritual leader convicted of neglect in teen’s death

A decade-long court dispute over a child neglect case that spawned a legal battle over faith healing, ended Tuesday with two guilty convictions for the girls’ mother and friend — Jacqueline Crank and her spiritual leader Ariel Ben Sherman

WBIR in Knoxville, Tennessee, reports

Jacqueline Crank and her spiritual leader, Ariel Sherman, were sentenced to 11 months, 29 days of unsupervised probation.

Crank’s daughter, Jessica, died of a rare form of cancer in 2002. […]

Tuesday, the two were both found guilty of misdemeanor child neglect. 

Sherman and Crank say they will appeal the conviction.

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.

The felony charges against both were dismissed during a December, 2002 preliminary hearing after Judge William Russell ruled the state had failed to make its case.

In April, 2003 a Loudon County grand jury indicted Jacqueline P. Crank, 42, and Ariel Ben Sherman, 74, on a single count of misdemeanor child abuse and neglect for their alleged failure to seek treatment for the girl.

The Knoxville News Sentinel notes

However, Judge Eugene Eblen’s decision was merely a prelude to a legal battle to be fought in the appellate courts over two key issues: When may a parent eschew medicine in favor of prayer and what legal duty of care does a spiritual adviser owe his or her flock? […]

Sherman and Jacqueline Crank were charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect, a major felony. But prosecutor Frank Harvey explained today those charges were dismissed because doctors opined Jessica likely would have died even if her mother had followed the clinic’s advice to seek immediate medical care.

The state persisted with a misdemeanor case primarily because the law on faith healing and the duty of care by someone like Sherman, who holds themselves out to be a parental figure, is unsettled in Tennessee.

Attorneys for Crank and Sherman say they will appeal the conviction.

In May 2008, WBIR said

Bosch says Sherman could not have sought medical help for Jessica Crank, even if he wanted to. […]

Sherman lived with Crank, but according to Bosch, he had no legal authority to take her to the hospital.

“There was only one person that could have done that, and that was her mother,” [Sherman’s attorney Don] Bosch said. “It takes a very unique and legally established relationship for any adult to authorize medical care for a minor. Unless you’re that child’s parent, or you have a contractual duty as a teacher or a baby-sitter, you can not authorize care in a situation such as cancer.”

The state argued the case should go to trial. It contends Sherman was more than a pastor and had an obligation to seek medical care.

“He had a duty to pursue it, not to authorize it, but to pursue it,” Senior Counsel Elizabeth Ryan told the justices. “Because of how he held himself out to the community, as her father, as her caretaker.”

The court’s decision could lay out consequences for other caretakers. Bosch cautioned justices not to open a “Pandora’s box” by making it a criminal offense for anyone with any type of relationship with a child not to take action.

“What this case could signal would be a criminal responsibility,” Bosch explained. “For that person to scoop up a minor child — not theirs — and change the course and decision the parents have made for that child.”

That’s one reason this case has gained national attention.

If the neglect cases against Sherman and Jacqueline Crank go forward, they’re expected to test state laws that allow parents to make medical decisions based on their faith. That was called the “800-pound gorilla in the room” Wednesday.

Trial date set for mother and ‘spiritual father’ in faith healing case

Jaqueline Crank and Ariel Ben Sherman Nearly ten years ago the mother and ‘spiritual father’ of a 15-year-old girl who died of bone cancer were charged for failing to heed advice from medical professionals and instead relying solely on faith healing.

The trial of Jacqueline Pearl Crank and her minister, Ariel Ben Sherman, has been now been set for May 8 in Loudon County Circuit Court. [Read more...]

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals to hear faith healing case

Virgin Mary More than six years after 15-year-old Jessica Crank died from cancer after failed attempts at faith healing, her mother Jacqueline is testifying about making that choice as a matter of religious conviction.

Crank now faces a misdemeanor neglect charge in the death of her daughter, after years of legal wrangling that has seen the charges move up and down the appeals process but never to trial. [Read more...]