New push for change to faith healing bill

State report pushing for new Idaho law.

BOISE -- A controversial Idaho law involving faith healing is up for discussion once again. So far this session, no bill has been drafted, but a recent study has brought new attention to the issue.

The Governor's Task Force on Children at Risk released a report in 2015 on how many kids died in Idaho in 2012 and the cause of those deaths. They found two kids could still be alive if their parents had chosen medical treatment, but instead they refused for religious reasons.

Senator Lee Heider has read the section of Idaho law in question many times, in fact, he has it bookmarked. It's a law that's been in place since 1972, and says parents whose children die because they refused medical care because of their faith cannot be prosecuted. 

"I don't have a concern about other people's religious beliefs." said Heider. "It's a first amendment right, the freedom of religion."

He says after receiving many calls and emails about the issue, he decided to look into it on his own, and recently visited a Followers of Christ service in Canyon County. 

"They were very nice people. They greeted us. They taught from the new testament. They had a tremendous following, there were 250 - 300 people in their congregation, lots of families, lots of young children," said Sen. Heider. 

He says as chairman of the health and welfare committee, he would be open to hearing a new bill on the issue, but so far, two drafts from his committee this year have gone no where.  

Rep. John Gannon drafted a change to the law back in 2014, but it also was unsuccessful. 

"I'm hoping that people can put emotions aside a little bit and say look, we've got to address this," said Gannon. 

But he says the child fatality report, including two preventable deaths, along with a letter to the governor shows it's time for something to change. 

The task force also points out the number of children's graves at a cemetery connected to faith healers. 

"It's something the legislature has to pay attention to. It's what we are there for, like i say we're going to have to evaluate, work together. This isn't a one person deal," said Gannon. 

The ten person task force, including medical professionals, law enforcement, and prosecutors recommended that Idaho's law be re-evaluated.

Idaho is one of only six states with a religious exemption law like this in place.



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