Faith healing heads to Statehouse. Bill hearing on Monday, vigil Tuesday

Posted at 10:12 PM, Mar 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-20 10:57:10-04

The topic of faith healing in the Gem State will be heard at the Idaho Statehouse Monday morning, but some say the proposed bill doesn't go far enough.

"We're not against religious freedom, but when religious freedom crosses the line and allows children to die then we would like to see that protection given to the children," said Brad Wingate Founder of the Protect Idaho Kids Foundation.

On Tuesday, Protect Idaho Kids and their supporters will host a vigil inside the state capitol to honor children who have passed away without the option of seeking treatment through modern medicine.

"And the future children who will probably die if these laws are not changed," added Wingate.

Under a religious exemption in Idaho code, parents have the legal right to deny medical care to their children.  Parents within the religious group "The Followers of Christ" instead rely on prayer. There's a large number of these so-called "faith healers" in the Treasure Valley, especially in Canyon County. According to a task force report sent to the governor, the number of deaths among children in the Peaceful Valley Cemetery, used by "The Followers of Christ," from 2002 to 2011, was ten times the rate of child deaths in the rest of the state.

While a bill that would tweak Idaho's civil law to make it easier for judges to get involved in faith-based healing is scheduled for a hearing on Monday, Protect Idaho Kids says the bill doesn't go far enough by leaving out criminal charges.

"No civil society in my mind should have a religious exception for manslaughter," said Wingate.

Others fear a change in code, won't result in a change of action.

"If we change the laws and force stuff on them, force our beliefs on them where the Idaho code gives them that right, who's going to know if they call us or not, they may go underground," said Canyon County Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris.

Currently, Idaho is one of six states in the country where religious exemptions are allowed for negligent homicide, manslaughter, or capital murder. Protect Idaho Kids says they will continue to fight for what they believe in until the religious exemptions are repealed.

The vigil is planned for Tuesday night from 5 to 6 P.M . on the first floor of the statehouse rotunda. A second proposed bill directs courts to consider other forms of treatment, like faith healing, before ordering emergency medical treatment for a child in cases of neglect. That bill does not have a hearing scheduled at this time.