Boise Democrat finds new way to target Idaho’s faith healing protections

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A Boise Democrat hopes an apparent contradiction in Idaho law will convince lawmakers to reverse the state’s exemption for parents who deny their children medical treatment for religious reasons. An Idaho law on “desertion and nonsupport” of children and spouses makes it a felony to refuse or neglect to provide basic needs or medical care to a spouse or child. For children, however, the 1972 law provides an exception for treatment by prayer or spiritual means. Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, on Monday introduced a bill that would remove that exception.

“This is saying that you treat your kids the same way you treat your spouse,” Gannon told the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee on Monday. “And that’s it.” The legislation targets Idaho’s legal protection for parents who use prayer or spiritual healing in place of medical care, a practice known as faith healing. Leading Republican lawmakers have for years thwarted attempts to reform the law, arguing parental and religious rights shield faith healing.

Gannon sponsored an unsuccessful 2014 bill that would have removed an exemption to the state’s “injury to child” penalties if medical neglect led to the child’s death or permanent disability. Another 2017 bill, from Rep. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, targeting faith healing also failed. Advocates against the faith healing protections have said former Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, who chaired the Senate State Affairs Committee, was key to blocking attempts at reform. Lodge retired last year. Since 2020, eight child deaths were associated with faith healing in Canyon County, where membership in the Followers of Christ Church — Idaho’s most notorious faith healing group — is largest, the Idaho Statesman recently reported.

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1 comment

  1. It’s absolutely outrageous that parents in Idaho are allowed to murder their children through deliberate medical neglect by claiming a “religious exemption.”

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