Idaho Lawmaker Totally Cool With Faith-Healing Parents Letting Their Kids Die
Over the past three years, twelve children in Idaho have died from completely preventable causes like pneumonia and food poisoning. Why? Because their parents, primarily members of a faith-healing sect called the Followers of Christ have refused to get them medical attention.
Idaho is one of six states in the country that allow religious exemptions in cases of negligent homicide, manslaughter and capital murder. It is one of 32 that allow religious exemptions in child endangerment cases. Due to laws fought for in the 1970s by Christian Scientists, parents in a plurality of states have the right to refuse medical care for their children on religious grounds.
Some people in Idaho want something done about that. State Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) has proposed a law that will hold parents accountable if refusing to provide medical care for their children leads to that child’s death or permanent disability.
Opposing the law is Rep. Christy Perry, who believes that parents should have the right to let their kids die of preventable diseases.
Via Al Jazeera:
Rep. Christy Perry (R-Nampa) said the law, as it stands, represents the constituents of her district, Canyon County, where Peaceful Valley Cemetery sits. “They have a clear understanding of what the role of government should be,” she said. “[It] isn’t how to tell me how to live my life.”
And perhaps, she said, Followers of Christ are more comfortable confronting death. “Children do die,” Perry said. “And I’m not trying to sound callous, but [people calling for reform] want to act as if death is an anomaly. But it’s not. It’s a way of life.”
“As you move out West, we tend to be much more independent people, and Idaho is a lot like that,” she said, adding that the independent streak is probably stronger in certain parts of the state, like Canyon County.
“They do not look to the government to help them at all,” said Perry, speaking about Followers of Christ. “They’re very self-sufficient and know how to take care of themselves. In Canyon County, people hunt to feed their families. They fish. They grow their own food.”
Faith healers, she said, are not uncaring parents. They simply trust God above doctors and have faith that God will do what’s right.
“They are comforted by the fact that they know their child is in heaven,” Perry said. “If I want to let my child be with God, why is that wrong?”
Furthermore, she said, she’s unsure of the motives of those who want to see faith-healing protections removed.
“Is it really because these children are dying more so than other children? Or is this really about an attack on a religion you don’t agree with?”
It is definitely about the children dying, at least on my part. I would assume on everyone’s part, really. What do I care what adults want to believe? As long as you’re not bothering anyone, go ahead! Knock yourself out! If when these children are 18, they decide they want to eschew medical care in favor of faith-healing, that’s fine with me also. Until then, however, I don’t believe they can give meaningful consent in these cases and I believe that matters.
It’s wrong to “let your child be with God” because that’s not your decision to make.
There are certain things that, as parents, you just don’t get to decide for your kids. You don’t get to decide that your eight year-old should drive a car, you don’t get to decide that your kid can go work in the coal mines, you don’t get to decide that it’s OK to beat your kids, you don’t get to decide that it’s OK to starve them, you don’t get to decide that it’s OK for them to have sex with adults, you don’t get to prevent them from going to school. In short, you don’t get to decide to cause harm to your child.
I get that it’s their religion, and that there is religious freedom in this country. I support that. However, not all religious practices are legal. That is why Warren Jeffs is in jail. Female genital mutilation, though a religious practice, is illegal in this country and you can go to jail if you send your kid abroad to have it done.
A parent should not have the right to, as Perry put it, let their child “be with god” any more than they have the right to let their child marry a 45 year-old man or to sacrifice that child to Satan.
I hope this law goes through in Idaho, and that something is done in the other five states with lenient laws on child endangerment, manslaughter and abuse in the cases of faith-healing. I believe in freedom of religion, but I don’t think that freedom should extend to anyone else’s body, even your own child’s.