Faith Healing

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Faith healing remains one of the most contentious issues in the state of Idaho. Monday at the Statehouse, a panel of senators narrowly approved a bill related to the matter in spite of overwhelming negative testimony.

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Two bills related to faith healing were introduced at the Statehouse Wednesday. The Chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, Jeff Siddoway, said he’ll probably schedule a full public hearing for one or both of the competing measures.

A legislative panel will not submit a recommendation to the Idaho Legislature on whether or not the state's law allowing families to cite religious reasons for medical decisions without fear of being charged with a crime should be repealed, punting any chance for change back to individual lawmakers who have previously failed to gain traction inside the religiously conservative Statehouse.

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Idaho parents are shielded from prosecution if they refuse modern medical care for their children because they believe in faith healing. The laws allowing this exemption date back to 1972. 

Thursday morning, a bipartisan group of lawmakers will hear from people who want these laws changed. Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) is on the working group, and says the issue is about child protection … and that religion should not be used to shield parents. 
 

YouTube screengrab / Protect Idaho Kids

A group that wants to repeal laws exempting parents from child abuse prosecution is hard at work this summer. Bruce Wingate is the founder of Protect Idaho Kids, and says parents who deny medical treatment to their children because of their religions should be held to the same standard as all parents.

The nonprofit has produced a series of videos making that case on local TV in Boise. Wingate hopes to get the spots on the air around the state in the next five months.

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Twenty-year-old Boise resident Mariah Walton told the Guardian U.S. she wants to see her parents prosecuted.

“They deserve it. And it might stop others,” Walton said.

The news site owned by British Guardian Media posted a story Wednesday about Idaho’s faith healing law and the untold number of child deaths it has contributed to.

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Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter says he's concerned with the number of children who die because their parents choose faith healing and not medical assistance for religious reasons.

Otter announced Thursday that he's asked House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill to form a legislative interim committee to study the issue over the next few months.

The Republican governor says that he believes the state can find a balance that both protects children and supports religious freedom.