BOISE - More than 150 demonstrators walked the streets of downtown Boise Monday to protest an existing Idaho law that allows parents to deny their children medical attention if it interferes with their religious beliefs.
"Our lawmakers, I think, are neglecting their responsibility to take care of children," demonstrator Carolyn Bridges said. "It shocks me that they have not taken this up."
According to the advocacy group "Protect Idaho Kids Foundation", 184 Canyon County children belonging to the Followers of Christ have died since the amendment was put in place. Although it's impossible to prove every single child death could have been prevented, a majority passed away from treatable conditions like diabetes, food poisoning or pneumonia.
"We're trying to get the laws changed so that the religious exemptions don't allow parents to let their kids die due to lack of medical attention," Protect Idaho Kids founder Bruce Wingate said.
Demonstrators Monday marched from Julia Davis Park to the Idaho Capitol building carrying symbolic child-sized coffins to represent each child death.
"This is something that's been going on for a long time and we just had an announcement last night that there's been another child that's died. So that takes it from 183 to 184," Wingate said. "You've got to ask, 'When's it going to stop?'"
While some in favor of the existing legislation feel any changes would infringe on Idaho parents' religious rights, others feel the need to protect children who are unable to make the decision for themselves.
"I'm a huge supporter of religious freedom," demonstrator Lisa Hunter said. "I just think that we should protect kids from neglect until they're of the age of 18 and they can choose to not get medical help themselves."