The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to let stand a Minnesota appeal court's $1.5-million damage judgment against four Christian Scientists, including the mother of a Minnesota boy who died from diabetes treated with prayer instead of medicine.
Without comment, the court rejected arguments that the award won by the boy's father--who is divorced from the mother--violated religious freedom.
The case had been closely watched since the death of 11-year-old Ian Lundman of Independence, Minn., in 1989. Christian Science belief relies on spiritual healing rather than conventional medicine.
Defendants in the case were the boy's mother, his stepfather, a Christian Science practitioner and a Christian Science nurse. In appealing the judgment, they called the case an urgent issue of religious freedom with an importance to Christian Scientists that "can scarcely be overstated."
M. Victor Westberg, an official at the church's headquarters in Boston, said the court's decision penalized the members but does not threaten the church itself. "We'll still continue to practice our religion as we have done for over 100 years," he said.
The justices also turned down, without comment, an appeal filed by Douglass G. Lundman, the boy's father, to reinstate a jury award of $9 million in punitive damages against the Christian Science church. The Minnesota appeal court had overturned that award.