An Idaho woman could face prison time for covering up for her husband’s child sex abuse because reporting it would have been against her religion.
Sarah Kester, who was already convicted of a felony for her crimes, will find out her fate next month. Her husband Lester Kester (yes, really) already admitted to molesting five children over the course of more than 20 years.
Sarah Kester, 50, was charged with felony injury to child. She pleaded guilty to the charge through an Alford plea, meaning she does not acknowledge guilt but acknowledges that there is enough evidence to convict her.
Her husband, Lester Kester, 48, pleaded guilty in November to molesting five children over two decades. He pleaded guilty to five counts of lewd conduct with a child younger than age 16 and faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced next week.
When detectives interviewed Sarah Kester last year, she told authorities that she learned of her husband’s actions about 17 years ago, and she was again confronted by the victims about three years ago, according to the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office has said Sarah Kester told detectives that she attempted to protect the children through praying for “the demon” to leave her husband and by attempting to keep him busy with other tasks, because she did not want to bring law enforcement into what she termed personal matters.
They’re not just “personal matters,” and you can’t keep a serial child molester busy with chores. Using religion as an excuse not to report what he did only makes matters worse.
The Kesters reportedly belong to Followers of Christ Church in Canyon County, a place that practices faith healing and believes that pharmaceuticals are the product of Satan. Previous media reports have focused on the church’s medical ignorance but not so much on its policies regarding law enforcement.
Though previous focus on the church has been on medical neglect, ex-followers have told authorities, lawmakers and the media that believers of the church also avoid contacting law enforcement, a policy that enables crimes to occur undetected by police.
The initial arrest of Sarah Kester drew attention from lawmakers because she was charged with injury to child, a crime that leaves an exemption for parents who decline to seek medical treatment for their children. The Legislature has repeatedly made efforts and failed to agree upon changing the law, which allows parents to let their children die if they believe it is God’s will.
Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, previously said that he hopes to bring a bill this Legislative session that might lift the faith-healing exemption. The session just began last week, so no such bill has been floated yet.
This faith exemption, which exists in several states, should be ended now. People like this, and those who let their kids die from preventable medical conditions, do not need more loopholes to avoid accountability.
This is when “personal beliefs” start being part of the public safety.