Idaho committee chairman receives ‘F’ grade in child advocacy

Idaho committee chairman receives ‘F’ grade in child advocacy

One year ago, the Child-Friendly Faith Project and local advocates began meeting with Sen. Lee Heider about a critical issue—Idaho’s failure to protect children from egregious ‘faith healing’ medical neglect. In evaluating his ability to be an advocate for children, the board of the CFFP agrees that the Senator deserves an ‘F.’

Lee Heider

Lee Heider is Chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee which was asked to consider a bill that aimed to protect children in Idaho from “faith-healing” medical neglect. Here’s why we believe Sen. Heider deserves a failing grade for his work on this urgent, life-and-death issue. Read More »

Are Idaho lawmakers ready to legalize all religiously motivated child abuse?

Are Idaho lawmakers ready to legalize all religiously motivated child abuse?

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As Idaho legislators consider a bill that would protect children from egregious “faith healing” medical neglect, some have a lot to say about religious freedom.

Sen. Lee Heider, who chairs the Sen. Health and Welfare Committee, has repeatedly stated that he opposes a bill that would make it illegal for adults to deny children necessary medical care for religious reasons.

“I don’t find fault in the fact that, because of their religious beliefs, we should prosecute them if a child dies. You know, it’s a first amendment right, the freedom of religion.”

“I think everybody cares about the health of children,” Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter told the media, “but we also have to remember the very first amendment to our Constitution. . . . No. 1 was religion. . . . I think it’s important to remember that they didn’t do ‘em alphabetically.”

Given this allegiance to protecting people’s right to freedom of religion, I wonder if legislators would support the legalization of all parenting decisions made in the name of faith that also jeopardize children’s health and safety. Read More »

Idaho Governor talks about ‘faith healing’ child deaths; town hall meeting is held

Idaho Governor talks about ‘faith healing’ child deaths; town hall meeting is held

Panelists at Boise town hall meeting (Nishant Mohan/ID Public Radio)

Last week, before I headed to Boise, Idaho, I was looking forward to being part of a panel discussion organized by local child advocates. The purpose was to offer a public forum for Idahoans who wanted to ask questions and share their views about the state’s religious “faith healing” exemptions.

But I had no idea just how significant the week would turn out to be.

On Wednesday, the day before the event took place, Rep. John Gannon submitted a bill to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The bill aims to better protect children who are raised in religious groups that reject medical care. (Previously, committee chairman Sen. Lee Heider had promised a hearing if a bill on the issue was submitted to his committee although he remains steadfastly opposed to changing the law.) On Thursday, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter stated he wants the legislature to study the issue. Read More »

Legislators in Idaho don’t like the idea of faith-healing-believing parents being prosecuted for denying their children needed medical care. But chances are, it’s not something they need to worry about.

Given the media attention surrounding “faith healing” child deaths in Idaho, legislators are probably thinking about whether they should change the state’s laws that currently fail to protect children in certain faith communities from medical neglect. Some have said it’s wrong to prosecute parents who neglect their children’s health for religious reasons.

But before lawmakers go too far down that road, I suggest they give thought to a baby named David Hickman.

David was born two months prematurely on September 26, 2009. His parents were members of the Followers of Christ who don’t believe in medical care. So when it was clear that David was going to come well before the due date, his parents didn’t go to a hospital. Instead, they continued with their original plan to have a home birth with no medical professionals present.

David's mother, Shannon Hickman, at her trial

Shannon Hickman, David’s mother at her trial

After David’s tiny body emerged, he seemed okay at first, despite the fact that he weighed only 3 pounds, 7 ounces. But soon after that, the color and muscle tone began leaving his face. His body turned blue. Then gray. Still, his parents only prayed and anointed him with oil. Nine hours after delivery, David died. Medical experts later determined he would have had a 99 percent chance of survival had he been provided medical care. Without medical care, his chances were “zero,” according to court documents. Read More »

An open letter to the people of Idaho

An open letter to the people of Idaho

Lauren in creekMany Idahoans are clear on where they stand on the issue of “faith healing” medical neglect.

There are those who believe that the state has a responsibility to protect the health and safety of its children, including those who are being raised by parents or guardians with extreme beliefs about faith healing. And there are those who believe that religious freedom is so critically important, that parents who religiously oppose medical care may refuse to take their child to a doctor even if it means that child suffers, becomes very sick or permanently disabled, or dies.

But I’m not directing this blog post to either of those groups. Rather, I’m speaking to the undecided, those who aren’t sure which camp they’re in, because they believe in both freedom of religion and a child’s right to be protected from abuse and neglect. Read More »

What is #ProjectIdaho?

What is #ProjectIdaho?

Too many children in Idaho are dying from “faith healing” medical neglect.

It’s time the state did something to stop it.

The Child-Friendly Faith Project doesn’t get involved in politics too oftenexcept when it comes to Idaho. Why? Because Idaho’s laws fail to protect the health of children who are raised in families and communities that deny their sons and daughters medical care for religious reasons.

As a result, many children are suffering and even dying from such treatable conditions as infection and diabetes.

Why? Because in Idaho, it’s legal for parents or guardians to deny a child needed medical care if they claim it’s for religious reasons. Even if that child suffers. Even if that child becomes permanently disabled. Even if that child dies. Read More »

Unity of Austin becomes Charter Member of the CFFP

Unity of Austin becomes Charter Member of the CFFP


We are honored to designate Unity of Austin as a Charter Member of the Child-Friendly Faith Project. The church recently achieved this status after participating in a self-paced discussion series, the first phase of our Child-Friendly Faith Communities Designation Program.

The curriculum, which is specially designed for faith communities, offers tools that help participants learn and talk about such topics as child development, maltreatment, and protection in an environment that is private and safe. A member of the faith community is chosen to facilitate the discussions, following a five-module study guide developed by the CFFP. Read More »

Please help us help kids

If you’ve been keeping up with our doings, you’ve probably heard about our Child-Friendly Faith Communities Designation Program. Now we’re launching a funding campaign that allows you to contribute directly to this unique curriculum! Specially designed for faith communities, the Designation Program teaches about child development and all forms of maltreatment. It includes workshops that help religious organizations develop effective child abuse prevention policies and programs that benefit children and families. Plus, each participant that completes the program is designated as a Child-Friendly Faith Community and promoted as a role model in child protection!

But we can’t do this work without your contribution. Please give what you can so we can complete development of the Designation Program and offer it for free to any faith community that wants to be part of a Child-Friendly Faith movement. To donate, just click on the image.

Please give to the Child-Friendly Faith Communities Designation Program campaign!

A new pilot program for faith communities who put children first

A new pilot program for faith communities who put children first

childrens hands big reversed and cropped

This year marks the beginning of an important movement to protect children from abuse and neglect that is enabled by ideology. And the most important players are faith communities that are ready to be role models in child protection.

The Child-Friendly Faith Project has just launched the pilot phase of its hallmark program: the Child-Friendly Faith Communities Designation Program. It’s one of the ways we are carrying out our mission to partner with faith communities to protect children from maltreatment that occurs in certain religious and cultural settings. Read More »

Featured Faith Community: Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch


The Child-Friendly Faith Project is starting a new blog series called Featured Faith Communities which highlights faith-based organizations and programs that are meeting the needs of children in a holistic way. The blog series is just one way the CFFP strives to fulfill its mission to support faith communities that nurture them in ways that are aligned with healthy child development models.

When Wendy arrived at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch several years ago, she left her difficult childhood behind. This was a chance to begin again. As she said in an interview that appears on their website,

I’d never really lived with my parents for very long at a time before I came to Boys Ranch. I did a lot of shifting throughout my childhood. I went to about probably six or seven elementary schools altogether. I remember my very first day [at Boys Ranch] and I was like, “Why are these people just so nice to me?” Then, after a few weeks of going to the summer program, I started getting more comfortable and learning who people were and talking to people.

Read More »