After the deaths of 12 children who belonged to “faith healing” families in Idaho, state lawmakers and politicians have refused to bring any manslaughter or murder charges.
The families belonged to a Pentecostal group known as the Followers of Christ, and members who seek modern medical care in the event of sickness are punished by the group by excommunication. According to Idaho state law, prayer can be used as a form of treatment and manslaughter, capital murder and negligent homicide charges cannot be filed if a child dies as a result.
Interestingly, the religious exemption cannot be used if a parent couples prayer with any other form of treatment.
“If the parent combines prayer with orange juice or a cool bath to bring down a fever, the parent loses the exemption,” Rita Swan, co-founder of the advocacy group Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, said.
Although a bill was put forward to change the law, state Republicans seem unwilling to push for legislation.
“This is about religious beliefs, the belief God is in charge of whether they live, and God is in charge of whether they die,” state Rep. Christy Perry (R) said. “This is about where they go for eternity.”
According to a report from KATU-TV last year, out of 553 graves in a cemetery outside of Boise, 144 of them were for children.
From The Raw Story:
Among those buried was Jackson Scott Porter, a newborn girl who lived for just 20 minutes before dying in her grandfather’s home. The girl’s mother did not receive any pre-natal care. Her cause of death was listed as untreated pneumonia.
“That’s the way we believe,” the grandfather, Mark Jerome, told KATU at the time. “We believe in God and the way God handles the situation, the way we do things.”
KATU also reported that local officials believe that another minor, 14-year-old Rockwell Sevy, had undiagnosed Down’s syndrome before he also died from pneumonia, in 2011.
Refusing to speak about his son’s death, Dan Sevy cited his right to religious freedom.
“I would like to say, I picture freedom as a full object. It’s not like you take ‘a’ freedom away,” Dan Sevy said. “It’s that you chip at the entire thing. Freedom is freedom. Whenever you try to restrict any one person, then you’re chipping away at freedom. Yours and mine.”
According to an investigation by Vocative, over the last three years, autopsies of children from faith healing families who died all could have been saved if they had been treated medically.
No charges have been filed in any of those cases.
Watch KATU-TV’s report from last year on the story: