The reason for this is goddamned ugly.
The Federal government passed a law that would provide wide- spread protection of the country's children from neglect by the childrens' parents. This was called "Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974." This Act MANDATES that every state include religious exemptions with regards to religious beliefs of the parents; if the state did not do so, federal funds would be withheld until the state complied. ALL STATES DID SO.
With regards to the death and trial in Santa Ana, it is not the first death, and will not be the last. The law that was argued is section 270 of the California Penal Code. Assembly Bill 3843 (Speaker Pro Tempore John T. Knox) added the word "practitioner" to the religious exclusion: this exempted the parents of Christian Science from the requirement to provide medical treatment to their children. Praying at the child was considered "alternate treatment," so therefore, it was stipulated, the parents provided "medical" treatment and are therefore not negligent.
The vote on the bill was 65-2 in the Assembly, 28-1 in the Senate! Astonishing, but true.
The Knox bill was signed into law by Governor Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown, Jr.
I telephoned ex-Governor Brown two years ago and asked him why he would sign a bill that resulted in the deaths of several children. His office hung up on me. To be "fair," no deaths in California concerning the religious exemption were known to Brown at the time he signed the bill. The deaths started to occur eight years later.