In early February, I wrote about Idaho's 'religious freedom' bill proposed by Rep. Lynn Luker (R-Boise). According to Luker, the bill (HB 427) was inspired by a New Mexico case that penalized a photographer for refusing to work a same-sex wedding, as reported by the Idaho Statesman.
“The intent of the bill was to provide a shield to protect the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment in light of the variety of increasing government mandates,” Luker said in a statement. “However, many misinterpreted the intent to be a sword for discrimination. I respect the concerns that I heard and therefore want to find the right language to balance those concerns.”Later in February, 500 people showed up to protest HB 427. It was sent back to committee and House Speaker Scott Bedke said it won't be coming back in this session.
This is a welcome development, but the state of Idaho continues to protect child endangerment in the name of 'religious liberty' even though it has already resulted in an alarming series of deaths. Following the removal of restrictions that protected faith healing in Oregon's child injury laws, Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) proposed similar changes in Idaho, but Speaker Bedke won't allow the bill to go forward.
Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke has blocked the Judiciary Committee from hearing the bill. According to the Associated Press the House leadership “feared an emotionally charged hearing pitting religious freedom against values like child welfare.” The bill is dead for this year. It is likely that more children will suffer the same fate as a result of this legislative obstruction.Autopsies have shown that several children in Marsing, Idaho have died of treatable causes. Their parents are all member of the Followers of Christ church, which has branches in Idaho, California and Oregon, and relies on faith healing, not medicine.
Gannon's bill was proposed in response to the deaths in Marsing. In February, a former member of Followers of Christ, Linda Martin, traveled from Oregon to Boise to voice her support.
According to an autopsy from June 2012, 15-year-old Arrian Jade Granden died after suffering from food poisoning. After three days of vomiting, her esophagus ruptured.By blocking hearings on Gannon's proposal, Speaker Bedke shows that he thinks avoiding controversy is more important that protecting lives. Some Idaho legislators are on record saying that despite the costs, they will protect child endangerment.
Preston John Bowers, who was 22 months old, died in March 2011 of pneumonia, according to his autopsy report. He had been suffering from a fever for days.
That same month, 14-year-old Rockwell Alexander Sevy died after a two-week illness. "As time went on, he began having more shortness of breath and the rattle in his chest got worse,'' wrote Canyon County Coroner Vicki Degeus-Morris, concluding pneumonia.
Pamela Jade Eells, 16, died in November 2011, again of pneumonia, according to the Payette County coroner.
In Idaho, someone found guilty of felony injury to a child — causing conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death or permitting a child to be injured — can get a decade behind bars.
But the law has this exemption: "Treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone shall not for that reason alone be construed to have violated the duty of care to such child.''
Gannon's proposal would lift that exemption "whenever a child's medical condition may cause death or permanent disability.''
Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said she fears the bill tramples on religious freedoms and parental rights.
“This is about religious beliefs, the belief God is in charge of whether they live, and God is in charge of whether they die,” said Perry. “This is about where they go for eternity.”