Let’s have an honest discussion about government interference, religious freedom and the deaths of children from faith-healing families in Idaho, one of the last states allowing this.
During the past decade, 10 Idaho children whose parents chose prayer healing alone died because they were denied the medical care that would have saved them. These deaths are troublesome to law enforcement, the medical field and generally abhorrent to the public. But they are barred from interfering; Idaho law allows these children’s deaths without their parents being charged. This is entitled the “religious exemption.”
By convoluted misconception of religion or simply theological ignorance with little insight into consequences, in 1976 Idaho added this law to comply with and receive funds from “The Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act” (CAPTA). Today it makes up more than half of Idaho’s present Department of Health and Welfare budget.
Idaho structured this law to protect “religious freedom.” In doing so, it prohibits a court from finding neglect if the child’s parents rely on faith healing alone even if the child dies. This was probably unintended, but as written, this law also allows not only believers in “faith healing” but actually any parent whose child dies, is ill or injured and denied medical care to escape being charged with neglect, simply by claiming that medical treatment is against their religious belief. This created a legal “privilege,” which is a violation of section I of the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection clause,” as any other parent under the same conditions not claiming “religious privilege” would be charged with neglect. This law is not only illegal, it is immoral.
Conscientious Idaho legislators have developed bills to protect these kids but were blocked by chairmen and astoundingly by senator infighting portraying their enigmatic misunderstanding of the tenets of their own religions and their fear of government intrusion into citizens’ lives. However, none of the bona fide religions within the U.S. preclude the presence of a physician, including the Christian Scientists. Basically, there is no excuse, legal or theological, to not end this travesty and save these kids.
When the Senate bill failed in 2017, it was hard to believe. The vacuousness of the legal and theological concepts of our senators fell far below my expectations. I contacted a retired Idaho Supreme Court Justice, three attorneys, one a Republican senator of high standing, a well-regarded Democratic senator and a highly recognized constitutional attorney asking them to assemble a bill that will not infringe on the freedom of religion but will update Idaho’s laws to conform to the Constitution and stop the deaths of these children. Thanks to them, that bill is complete and constitutional.
If we are to end this travesty, Idaho’s pastors, bishops, regents and priests need to do their job by educating legislators attending their churches by clarifying their tenets’ inclusion of a physician. What is most needed is for you the citizen to contact your legislators and insist they pass this bill when it comes before them.