In Idaho, religious freedom trumps the welfare of children
Last June we reported that a petition had been launched, calling on Idaho Governor ‘Butch’ Otter above to remove legal protections that allow faith-healing families to avoid prosecution if their beliefs result in children dying from lack of proper medical care.
Sadly, the petition set up by Linda Martin, attracted just 1,178 signatures, and this week Idaho lawmakers declined to change the law.
Instead, they approved a bill that would allow Bible study in science classes, thus proving that religion trumps everything in Idaho.
According to this report, Democrat State Representative John Gannon introduced a bill to remove the exemption in the child injury law for faith-healing parents, but Republican State Senator Lee Heider, head of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said he was never asked to set a hearing — and wouldn’t do so anyway.
Heider said it was too late in the session to set a hearing on the faith-healing bill, but he said he’s not likely to support a change to state law that he believes would prosecute parents for exercising their religious beliefs. Said Heider, who describes himself as “pro-life”:
I’m a First Amendment guy, and I believe in the First Amendment, which gives people freedom of religion.
Heider is reported here as saying:
I believe the law is pretty straightforward. We would encourage them to seek medical care, but we don’t force people to seek medical care – and whether it’s because they can’t afford it or, in this case, because of their heartfelt religious belief, we simply don’t do that.
Governor Otter, a Republican, said three weeks ago that he had asked House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill to appoint a work group to study the faith-healing exemption.
The issue has drawn attention in recent years through reporting on the deaths of numerous children in the Followers of Christ community in southwestern Idaho from preventable deaths such as pneumonia and food poisoning.
But Republican lawmakers haven’t been willing to do much to change a law that would compel religious parents to seek medical care for their children — even though evidence suggests that would save lives.
A doctor who practices in southwestern Idaho said changing the law could help parents who want to seek medical care overcome social pressure from their religious community, which he said happened when Oregon lawmakers removed that state’s exemption in 2011.
The “Bible-as-a-textbook” bill was introduced by Republican State Senator Sheryl Nuxoll. It allows teachers to use the Bible as a reference book in public schools. She said:
The Bible is the document brought to North America by our nation’s first immigrants, used in our public schools, and is the foundation of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Some perceive the Bible to be central to only the Christian faith, but this is not true. It is referenced by Jews, Muslims, Christians and others.
Hat tip: Cali Ron