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.

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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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