Two different bills were printed Wednesday morning that address Idaho’s long-standing faith healing controversy.
The first bill was introduced by Dan Sevy, a member of the Followers of Christ. The Followers do not believe in using medicine and are protected from child abuse charges in cases where children die from a lack of medical care by Idaho state law.
Sevy’s bill looks to provide consideration of alternative health care methods, including the practice of faith healing, when a court makes an authorization for emergency medical treatment in a case of child neglect.
The second bill was brought by Senator Dan Johnson, who was the chairman of the interim committee that studied the issue during the summer of 2016.
Johnson’s bill looks to make changes to the language of the current religious exemptions to make it easier for judges to get involved in faith healing cases. The bill, however, does not change the current criminal prosecution exemption. That exemption prevents parents who choose prayer over medicine from being prosecuted if a child dies from a preventable illness.
The bill, however, does change how child neglect cases are seen according to Idaho’s civil laws. The bill says that in terms of civil cases:
When a parent, guardian or other custodian chooses for such child, or supports such child in their choice to pursue treatment by prayers through spiritual means alone or in part in lieu of medical treatment, such child shall not be deemed to be neglected unless the failure to receive medical treatment is likely to result in serious injury or death…
The bill also goes on to say that the wishes of the child will be considered in determining if child neglect has happened.
In his statement of purpose for the bill Johnson writes:
These changes will allow the State, in those instances where a parent has been advised and educated about their child’s declining health, or in instances where the parents were not genuinely treating by spiritual means through prayer, to be properly investigated and perhaps prosecuted.
The next step for both of the bills is to get a hearing in a committee, and neither have been scheduled for that yet.
Dan Sevy's bill:
Senator Johnson's bill: