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.

In addition, an Idaho child advocacy group called Protect Idaho Kids is about to launch a “Let Them Live” media campaign that will run throughout the year until the 2017 legislative session begins.

Why is the issue gaining so much traction? In a word, compassion.

What Idaho lawmakers lack in that department, others have plenty of. Most of the stories feature a young woman named Mariah Walton who was born with a birth defect her parents refused to treat. Instead, they turned to prayer and natural remedies. As a result, Mariah struggles to breathe on her own and is in need of a lung transplant to prolong her life.

Now some legislators are stepping up and saying that Idaho should follow other states and change the laws so that parents who deny their children necessary medical care are held accountable. They gave their opinions as part of a questionnaire that was sent to all lawmakers.

Now that pressure is being put on Idaho legislators both from inside and outside the state—and will likely continue until the legislature reconvenes—many are asking: Will Idaho lawmakers and Governor Otter finally agree to protect the health and lives of all its children?

Janet Heimlich is the founder of the Child-Friendly Faith Project, a national, nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity that raises awareness of religious child maltreatment. She is an award-winning journalist and the author of "Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment" (Prometheus Books), the first book to take an in-depth look at child abuse and neglect that is enabled by religious belief. She also hosts the podcast, "Parenting Beyond Belief." For eight years, Janet freelanced as a reporter for National Public Radio. She also has written non-fiction articles for such publications as Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Texas Observer. Janet has won nine journalism awards, including the Dallas Press Club’s Katie, the Houston Press Club’s “Radio Journalist of the Year,” and the Texas Bar Association’s Gavel Award. Janet received a B.A. in Communications with a minor in English from Stanford University in 1984.

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