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Politics & Government

Draft Bill Would Drop Idaho Faith Healing Protections

Idaho Capitol Dome
Emilie Ritter Saunders
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho’s controversial laws shielding those who practice faith healing from criminal charges could soon get another challenge.

State Rep. John Gannon, a Boise Democrat, is drafting a bill that would make it illegal for parents who believe modern medicine is a sin to not seek pediatric care.

“The adults can’t treat themselves with faith healing, but they can treat their children that way and I think that needs to be changed,” Gannon says.

The specific law he’s talking about makes it a felony for someone to refuse medical care for his or her spouse, though it exempts faith-based treatments for children.

Former Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Jones backs the bill, noting there shouldn’t be such a discrepancy in the law.

“There is no basis to give a faith healing exemption for a child’s care but not the surviving spouse,” Jones says.

Idaho and five other states currently allow members of religious groups to use prayer to treat illnesses without repercussions.

State lawmakers have debated the issue for years, repeatedly striking down any proposed changes. They say people should be free to practice their religion without government intervention.

A recent state report found that five children died in 2013 of conditions that could’ve been prevented if they had seen a doctor.

“I think it’s time that everyone is subject to the same obligations and the same laws and right now children are being treated differently than adults in this statute and that needs to be fixed,” Gannon says.

He has introduced similar bills each legislative session since 2014. Should it pass, parents who withhold medical care could face a felony charge and up to 14 years in prison.

For more local news, follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson

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