With the close of the Idaho legislature, more children will die

With the close of the Idaho legislature, more children will die

ID legislature

We’re sorry to report that yet another year has gone by in which the Idaho legislature has refused to help children who are getting extremely ill, suffering disability, and dying—all due to lawmakers fiercely clinging to a twisted belief in “religious freedom.”

As you may know, Idaho is home to the Followers of Christ church, which hates and fears doctors so much—and believes so strongly in the power of prayer—that they provide sick children, no matter how ill, with no medical care. Currently, more children die of “faith healing” medical neglect in Idaho than in any other state, because in Idaho, the laws protect parents who commit these abuses from being prosecuted.

This also means that infants struggling for breath at birth are not taken to the hospital. Elementary-school children who have diabetes are refused insulin until they get dehydrated, enter a comatose state, and die. And teenagers risk dying from infection when a simple prescription for antibiotics could cure them.

Of course, for every child who dies, there are untold numbers of others who suffer every day with discomfort, pain, and permanent disability. (Think about these kids the next time you reach for an over-the-counter remedy for a headache, back pain, or menstrual cramps.)

Some progress was made this session. For the first time, lawmakers allowed a bill to have a hearing. SB1182 was far from perfect, but at least it marked an interest among legislators to do something, and members of the public got to speak on behalf of children who have died or are at risk of religious medical neglect.

Also, thanks to the work of tireless child advocates, such as Protect Idaho Kids (which held a vigil at the Capitol for children who have died and are at risk for “faith-healing” medical neglect), Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), and local religious leaders, there was lots of media attention paid to this issue. I wrote a number of op-eds in local papers on behalf of the Child-Friendly Faith Project.

Can we count on you to help save the lives of these kids? The next legislative session isn’t until next January, but the time to act is now. The most important thing you can do is to donate to Protect Idaho Kids and write to legislators in Idaho. You can do all of this from PIK’s website.

Idaho lawmakers publicly shamed for allowing children to die

Idaho lawmakers publicly shamed for allowing children to die

Mariah Walton who accuses her parents of denying her medical care as a child  (Photo courtesy of Jason Wilson of The Guardian)

The Child-Friendly Faith Project and child advocates in Idaho and around the country have worked hard to raise awareness of an unfolding tragedy: For decades, Idaho has been allowing parents to deny their children needed medical care, as long as they justify such neglect with religion.

Now people around the world are paying attention.

A week ago, The Guardian published a feature that became the no. 1 read story on its site. This week, the issue was covered by both “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show.” Other national and international sites have also covered this issue. Read More »

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 »

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 »

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 »