Do children have a right to health care no matter what? In Idaho the answer is “No.”
• Even when the child suffers or dies, the state does not file charges against the parents.
• There are sects in Idaho that routinely use only prayer and ritual when children are sick, especially the Followers of Christ.
• 614 people are buried there.
• 214 of those graves are for children or stillborns.
• Only 3% of Idaho deaths statewide are of children and stillborns.
• 146 of the children or stillborns died after Idaho enacted religious exceptions to criminal nonsupport, criminal injury to children, and manslaughter in 1972.
Details about the cause of child deaths in faith-healing sects are hard to come by, as are photographs. Mostly what we have are photos of the grave markers. Public records and in some cases the testimony of relatives have given us information on the few Followers of Christ children below. Links to autopsy or coroners' reports are included where they are available. Readers should be advised that some of the details are graphic.
Mostly due to the lobbying of the Christian Science Church.
Idaho’s religious defenses to felony crimes against children were passed unanimously by the legislature within four days after they were introduced in 1972. They have Christian Science code words and were called the “Christian Science amendment” by the Idaho Supreme Court and State Bar, but it was written broadly enough to include all faith-healing sects.
Repeal the religious exemptions to give Idaho children equal protection of the law.
Religious exemption laws have contributed to innumerable preventable deaths of children nationwide. They have encouraged parents and faith leaders to believe that the state approves of depriving sick children of medical care—that exclusive reliance on prayer and ritual for healing is not only legal but safe.
1. Are these religious exemptions mandated by the First Amendment?
No. The courts have never ruled that freedom of religion gives anyone the right to cause or allow injury to a child. Courts have consistently ruled that freedom of belief is absolute, but freedom to act out religious beliefs can be limited by vital state interests.