| 03.24.2018

Faith-healing fallacy

Idaho’s faith-healing exemption law is perhaps the state’s greatest embarrassment



On Feb. 19, protesters in Boise carried 183 tiny wooden coffins up to the Capitol steps, according to an Idaho Statesman report.

That number represented how many children have died across the nation since the notorious faith-healing exemption to medical treatment arose in the early 1970s.

Jonah Baker | Argonaut

This particular organization is a grim reminder we still have barbaric laws in place that allow for pure child abuse.

According to the Washington Post, more children die of faith-based medical neglect in Idaho than in any other state. Some projections estimate that as many as four children a year die because their parents would rather hope and pray than seek medical attention backed by centuries of practice and data-driven processes.

There are many legal areas in which Idaho is laughably behind the pack, but this has to be the worst.

The rationale behind the law — of which it is very little — is that parents and their religious freedoms take precedence over any state mandate for healthcare. This disgusting belief robs children of their quality of life and essentially forces them to believe in a religion that they do not have the agency to evaluate.

The law is supposed to protect the individual rights of the parents to an admittedly demonic extent while inhibiting children’s access to the healthcare that is available today. In reality, it means that splinter sects of Christianity can refuse to treat children who have contracted pneumonia, diabetes or other diseases and disorders that we have the technology to deal with.

As more states have repealed their faith-healing exemptions, more of those that choose faith-healing for their children have moved to Idaho and infected us with this totally backward practice. Sects like the Followers of Christ church actively are independent to a fault, going as far as to not alert the authorities after a death and to make death a regular part of childhood for those that grew up in it.

Despite the fact that so many children had already died, the state did not form an investigative task force until 2015. They did come to the conclusion that the repeal of this law could save the lives of children, and should be reviewed. The resulting bill didn’t even get out of committee.

Idaho state Sen. Dan Foreman — who has been on the wrong side of the news enough already — had the gall to say that there was no solution that would take care of everyone. Apparently, Republican steadfast protection of children ends as soon as they exit the womb. The sad reality is that this year is an election year, and Idaho legislators will not risk their seats on this issue that could result in the preventable deaths of up to four children this year.

This is cowardice.

Unlike gun control, there are not two sides to this particular instance of an attack on children. At the very least, these ‘parents’ should be prosecuted for an especially sadistic kind of abuse. These children never had a choice or a chance. And because our government refuses to take the slightest step out of line with conservative religious groups, these abuses will continue.

I am not saying that every single death is in the government’s hands because these people are too good at hiding their horrors. But to say that they won’t even really try is almost worse.

Jonah Baker can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @jonahpbaker

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