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 an award-winning journalist and the author of "Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment," the first book to fully examine the issue of child abuse and neglect enabled by religious belief. In 2012, Janet founded the Child-Friendly Faith Project whose mission is to share knowledge and build community around the issue of religious child maltreatment (RCM) and advocate for and empower those whose lives are impacted by RCM. She also sits on the board of directors of Foundation Beyond Belief and co-hosts the podcast, "Parenting Beyond Belief." Prior to becoming a child advocate, Janet was a freelance reporter for National Public Radio, work for which she won numerous journalism awards; she has also written nonfiction articles for such publications as Texas Monthly and the Texas Observer.

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