Opposing pieces of faith healing legislation introduced

Posted at 1:32 PM, Mar 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-15 20:02:41-04

Two bills concerning the right to practice faith healing in Idaho were introduced at the Capitol on Wednesday. 

Faith healing is practiced by the Followers of Christ, a religious group who believe in the healing power of prayer. 

The bills introduced to the Senate State Affairs Committee seek to change the legal definition of neglect under state law. 

A bill introduced by Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, would tweak civil laws to make it easier for judges to intervene in faith healing cases. 

"What our proposal does is it strikes the so-called religious shield and defers all defense of religious practices to... [the] religious freedom act," Johnson said.

The second, brought forward as a citizen's bill by Dan Sevy, would direct courts to consider other forms of treatment, such as faith healing, before ordering emergency medical treatment for a child in cases of neglect. 

"What is RS simply does is recognize that there are other forms of treatment besides medicine, as most people define as state licensed medical doctors," Sevy said.

The bills do not address criminality of the practice

"It was never the desire of the legislature, that I'm aware of, to criminalize parents," Johnson said. "We recognize faith healing as a form of treatment, but we don't want to criminalize parents who practice that."

A large portion of Idaho's faith healing community resides in Canyon County. Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue says the legislation is a good first step, but there is more to be addressed. 

"We live in a nation of laws, we live under the rule of laws, and the law has to be applicable to all of us a citizens equally," Donahue said. "The priority has to be protection of the children, some of the most vulnerable in society, and the law has to be equal... for parents and guardians regardless of  who they are and what they believe in."

Both bills have been promised a full legislative hearing.