Faith-based healing bill drafted, awaiting consideration

Jan 31, 2018

By Kyle Pfannenstiel

BOISE — A bill that would make faith-based healing a criminal offense in Idaho has been drafted and is awaiting consideration for a committee hearing.

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, drafted legislation that would remove the exemption from prosecution for parents who don’t seek medical attention for their children due to conflicting religious or spiritual practices. Statutes currently only allow such an exemption for children, which Gannon calls “discriminatory.”

“To say it’s alright to allow children to die from a lack of medical attention by relying on faith healing, but adults must have medical attention is unconscionable,” he said in a press release.

His bill would strike out the exemption involving “the practice of a parent or guardian who chooses for his child treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone.” A 2016 report from a state task force assembled by the governor found that eight children died as a result of religious objections to treatment between 2011 and 2013.

Gannon said in an interview he will try to get the bill heard by the health and welfare committees, but he has not yet filed it for committee hearing. The likelihood it will get a hearing depends on occurrences outside his control — like when Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue testified in committee on a faith-healing bill last session. The Spokesman-Review reported Donahue said in the March 2017 hearing, “In my county alone, I’ve had three deaths in the last four months. … My hands are tied as a law enforcement officer.”

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