If you visited the Idaho Capitol building in Boise yesterday, you would’ve seen 183 tiny coffins, representing children in the state who have died since 1970 as a result of faith-based medical neglect. Those kids could’ve been saved if they had seen a doctor; instead, their parents prayed over their bodies… only to watch them die since rational people would’ve known that God was never going to intervene.
In Idaho, those parents receive no punishment because of a faith-healing exemption in the law. The protesters were trying to change that.
As it stands, Idaho is one of six states that allows faith-based exemptions when parents are charged with negligent homicide or manslaughter against their children. The parents who kill their children by refusing to get them appropriate medical care are essentially let off the hook, which is why Idaho in particular sees so many of these kinds of deaths.
Making things worse is the fact that the state is home to the Followers of Christ sect, members of which have been in the news many times over because their kids died from preventable diseases.
The goal of this protest was to raise awareness about the seriousness of this problem and encourage politicians to take action in a heavily conservative state. You would think the “pro-life” party would have some compassion for kids who are already born. You would think they’d do everything in their power to limit this brand of religious abuse. But so far, no action has been taken. No bills to remove the exemption have even been introduced.
That didn’t stop advocates from speaking on behalf of the kids who are no longer here. According to a press release from Protect Idaho Kids, the group organizing the protest, marchers want to see an end to “exemptions in child abuse laws that provide religious groups broad immunity from criminal prosecution and civil liability in cases in which children get very sick, become disabled, or die from medical neglect.”
Speaking to the crowd at the Idaho Capitol, Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue said, “Adults should be held criminally liable when they fail to seek medical help for seriously ailing children.” The Followers of Christ Church whose adult members deny medical care to their children has a strong following in Canyon County.
Willie Hughes knows first hand of the toll denial of medical care to children can take. He suffered through whooping cough at age three and a concussion at six with no medical care including over-the-counter pain relief medicine. Mr. Hughes shared the tragic story of his brother with the crowd, “My brother Steven was born with spina bifida. Our parents never took Steven to a doctor.” Mr Hughes continued, “Steven got very sick when he was three, and the “Elders” prayed and rubbed olive oil on him. Steven passed away later that night of bronchial pneumonia.”
How can Idaho politicians listen to those testimonies and do nothing? It’s not surprising when you realize they care far more about “religious freedom” than the lives of people who suffer because that freedom can go too far.
How many more children have to die before Republicans do something meaningful to prevent it? We know gun violence doesn’t bother them; it’s hard to believe religious violence will spur them into action either. But protests like these still serve a purpose by getting the public on the right side of the issue. If enough people object, politicians will eventually have to pledge to fight faith-healing if they want to win seats in office.
(Image via Protect Idaho Kids)