The ruling, believed to be the first of its kind by a state supreme court, deals a blow to the Boston-based Christian Science Church, which, since the 1960s, has persuaded several state legislatures to change laws to accommodate the religious beliefs of its members. At the urging of the church, many states amended child neglect and support laws to recognize spiritual healing through prayer, a cornerstone of Christian Scientist beliefs, as a legally acceptable alternative to common medicine.
In the Boston case, David and Ginger Twitchell were indicted earlier this year on manslaughter charges in the death of their 2 1/ 2-year-old son, Robyn. Robyn died of a bowel obstruction five days after he became ill and his parents chose to treat him with spiritual healing. The Twitchells, through their attorneys, have filed a motion in Suffolk Superior Court to dismiss the manslaughter indictments against them. No hearing date has been set. Attorneys in the Twitchell case could not be reached for comment.