Idaho Senate Kills Faith Healing Measure

Mar 21, 2017

Credit Casey Lewis / Flickr

Faith healing remains one of the most contentious issues in the state of Idaho. Monday at the Statehouse, a panel of senators narrowly approved a bill related to the matter in spite of overwhelming negative testimony.

SB-1182 wouldn't have ushered in sweeping change to Idaho’s faith healing laws had it passed. It clarified some language currently on the books, reaffirmed the state’s commitment to free exercise of religion and included a provision to get sick children’s input should their parents be accused of neglecting them by not seeking medical care. Something the bill didn’t address was protections for deaths resulting from faith healing in Idaho’s Criminal Code.

The Senate State Affairs Committee narrowly passed the measure, even though people on both sides of the debate expressed frustration with the proposal.

A former member of a sect that practices faith healing, Linda Martin, testified before the senators.

“This bill will allow even more Idaho parents to use prayer as an excuse for neglecting a child’s basic medical needs. Without removing the religious language in the criminal code, there are no consequences for letting a child die in an inhumane, needless manner from an easily treatable illness like diabetes.”

Law enforcement was also represented at the hearing. Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue didn’t mince words when offering his appraisal of faith healing, bluntly calling it “an embarrassment to our state.” His tone was sharp as he critiqued the practice and exemptions made for “this small minority of people to continue to neglect children to the point of dying needlessly.”

Members of faith healing sect Followers of Christ addressed the panel of lawmakers; they expressed concern about potential prosecution.

The bill, having passed out of committee on a tight 5-4 vote, died during a hearing in the full senate today.

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