LETTERS FROM SURVIVORS
The letters below are from adults whose childhoods were spent growing up in the Followers of Christ faith-healing sect. They detail the suffering that children deprived of medical care can endure when parents and church elders believe that such care violates their religious beliefs. The current law allows them to do this legally.
These letters were written in support of a bill to minimally change the law. The bill would have made it a legal duty for faith-healing parents to provide medical care to a child whenever his or her medical condition may cause death or permanent disability. All other parents in Idaho already have this and other child protection obligations. The letters were distributed to the members of the Idaho House Judiciary Committee in January of 2014 in anticipation of a hearing the bill never got.
To Whom It May Concern:
Growing up in the Followers of Christ was violently abusive both physically and mentally. The Followers are a cult of oppression, fear, and control. This is accepted in the cult and encouraged.
The church of Boise is a quaint little pink building on Ten Mile road just off Chinden Blvd. I attended this church with my mother and stepfather when I was growing up.
They are a tightly woven group keeping to themselves. As a child I was not allowed to have friends or associate with those “of the world”. You see, anyone not of the “Followers” are of the world and therefore the direct hands of Satan.
My personal experiences are many, varied as to witness and experience.
Here is one in particular that would have greatly benefited me if the state could have intervened.
In the seventh grade I wanted so badly to have friends and be accepted in a world that was not the “Followers”. I decided to try out for wrestling against the wishes of my mother and step father as it was with people of the world.
During wrestling, my left foot had two metatarsals broken. When my mother was notified she came and picked me up from school. I was taken home where the normal Followers’ treatment was received.
There was always a bottle of Manischewitz wine in the refrigerator. This bottle was communal and shared, any disorder that ailed you was healed thru the body of Christ in the wine. Be it measles, the flu, common cold, migraine, broken bones, whatever ailed you, it was the cure. You step right up and have a swig directly from the bottle, letting your faith in the body of Christ cure you.
As for the topical treatments, look no further than the bottle of rancid olive oil sitting in the cupboard. The olive oil was used for all manner of treatments. A pus oozing wound, no problem, a couple rubs of the sacred and blessed olive oil will do the trick. Broken bones, rub some rancid olive oil on it. Your chicken pox itch, yep rub that olive oil. Let us not worry about cross contaminations, you see when it turns cloudy and white it is not the perfect breeding ground of rancid shared contamination, no, that is the body of Christ blessing it with his spirit.
But I digress, back to what followed. Upon getting home from school, I was prayed over, given a swig of wine, rubbed with rancid olive oil and the elders were called to assemble a prayer circle of the elders. The elders are an assemblage of those believing they had been personally called upon by God to step up in order to counsel and heal the flock. Yes, the voices in their head told them they could heal.
Over the next few days it was diagnosed to be a twisted ankle by these inept “called upon”. Several times I would be anointed with the rancid oil, given the sweet wine, prayed above, and told to walk as I was healed. It always ended the same, as my left foot hit the ground and my weight pressed upon it, I would pass out in pain. Often times I would awaken to abusive beatings being told that my faith in God was too weak to allow him to heal me. I was told I was a “gay boy” and therefore would not be healed. This went on for many days until the school requested a medical slip to continue my absences.
They finally had to bend to “the law of the land” and take me in to a doctor. I was still in the same pair of pants and shoes as the swelling was too great to remove them. The doctor and nurse began to cut them off for access and x-rays. This was again a sure sign that I was “gay, “as were the male nurse and doctor.
They were after all the direct hands of Satan attempting to alter what was manifest predestination. Everything good or bad to happen to you in life is preordained by God, your faith and belief will carry you thru. Your lack is surely your failings.
My foot was found to have been shattered in two places and infected, as well, I was in state of shock. I was put in a temporary cast due to the swelling, given pain meds, and antibiotics. When we arrived back home, the meds were immediately flushed and I received a sermon as to why I had not been healed, how bad a person I was, how the schools and government were trying to disavow God and I was going to burn in hell over my lack of faith.
We had to go back to the doctor for a walking cast. Again this was a hand twisted by the schools under a threat of investigation. There were many beatings to keep my mind right and not discuss any of this with the outsiders.
As the pain pills had been thrown out, I had difficulties sleeping. Many nights I would be slapped across the face for wincing in pain, would be beaten with a willow branch/belt/hand, I would pull my blankets over my head and cry as silently as possible knowing the slightest whimper would show my lack of belief and bring the wrath. The elders would be called for a prayer circle, the abuse would cycle, and the fear to tell anyone was enough to keep me quiet. The “gay” doctors were obviously wrong and it was just a sprained ankle, if I would just open my heart to the blessings and love of God, I would heal.
While the bruises of this have long past, the physical pain dispersed, it is still carried with me every day.
To the Honorable Members of the Idaho Legislature,
My father was born and raised in the Followers of Christ in Boise, Idaho. He was an active member for over 63 years until the time of his death on April 1, 2013.
Before my father and mother divorced I had pneumonia when I was about 2yrs. old. My mother told me I almost died because my father forbid her to take me to a doctor for treatment. They divorced when I was 3.
My mother moved to Washington after the divorce. I had to spend summers with my father for court ordered visitation.
I was 12 when my half-brother Steven was born with spina bifida. He suffered from extremely painful headaches and other problems associated with his disability. He received no medical care because of my father and stepmother’s beliefs. Not even so much as an aspirin for pain. I was 14 when Steven died in 1982. He was almost 3 years old. It was very traumatic for me to watch Steven suffer and receive no help.
At 15, I was in a serious car accident in Silvana, Washington. I was hospitalized at Cascade Valley Hospital for a broken jaw, broken nose, knee and other injuries. My father came to visit while I was there. If my medicine was brought in while my father was there he would intercept it if he could and throw it away. My father always voiced his disapproval for doctors and medicine.
At 16 I was visiting my father in Boise, Idaho. We were at the cabin of one of the Follower of Christ elder’s cabin. I wrecked my dirt motorcycle into an 8 ft. deep ravine. My father refused to take me in for medical treatment. I was in pain, I had a lot of bruises and was unable to walk without pain for a couple of weeks.
At 18 I joined the military. I was visiting my father in Boise, Idaho during leave. I once again wrecked my motorcycle while we were riding in Emmett, Idaho.
I needed stitches to close a wound on my knee. My father tried to make me let an elder sew it up. I refused and went to a doctor for treatment.
My father and I became estranged over the years because of his beliefs. I was not allowed to attend my Father’s funeral in part because of our disagreements about his beliefs.
I have come to realize over the years that the Followers of Christ is not a religion or church but a destructive cult. They hide behind Idaho’s religious shield laws. No adult should be able to allow a child to die from simple treatable illnesses without facing any consequences. All children should be protected equally by the laws.