Faith Assembly head Hobart Freeman is accused of contributing to the death of a teenage girl.

For years, people both within and outside charismatic Christian circles have looked askance at Hobart Freeman. Leader of the Faith Assembly sect based in Wilmot, Indiana, Freeman teaches that to seek medical care demonstrates a lack of faith in God’s ability or desire to heal the body supernaturally. It is estimated that some 80 people, many of them children, have died in recent years as a result of following Freeman’s teachings.

Recently Indiana legal authorities have begun taking notice. Last month, a Kosciusko County grand jury indicted Freeman, 64, on charges of aiding and inducing reckless homicide. The charges stem from the death in September of 15-year-old Pamela Menne. She died of chronic kidney failure, a condition a local coroner testified was medically treatable.

Pamela’s parents, James and Ione Menne, face charges of reckless homicide, criminal recklessness, and neglect of a dependent. They are the third Faith Assembly couple in the last four months to face such charges. The first two couples were convicted. Freeman and the Mennes will be tried sometime next spring. If they are found guilty, they will face jail terms up to as long as 20 years.

Kosciusko County prosecuting attorney Michael Miner said he doubts he will be able to prove that Freeman intervened directly in the Menne case. Freeman is in trouble, Miner said, because of the “general procedures” he oversees as the leader of Faith Assembly.

The wave of legal action against the group brings to the fore the issue of religious freedom. In 1974 the now extinct U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) ordered states to exempt faith-healing sects from child-neglect ...

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