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Vigil at Capitol Honors Child Victims of Faith-Healing Exemption

The vigil for children who have died due to the faith-healing exemption is being held at the Capitol rotunda. (Jim Bowen/Flickr)
The vigil for children who have died due to the faith-healing exemption is being held at the Capitol rotunda. (Jim Bowen/Flickr)
January 31, 2019

BOISE, Idaho – Opponents to Idaho's religious exemptions to providing medical care for children are gathering at the State Capitol Building Thursday to hold a vigil.

The vigil will honor children who have died because they didn't receive medical attention.

The exemption often is called the "faith-healing exemption" because parents of certain religious groups opt to treat illnesses and injuries with prayer.

The organization Protect Idaho Kids estimates three to four Idaho children suffer preventable deaths each year because of it.

Rev. Andrew Kukla, pastor head of staff at First Presbyterian Church in Boise, is presiding at the event.

"The vigil itself is intended to be a time to reflect on the children who have and will continue to die if Idaho legislators continue to imagine that the religious freedom of their parents is more important than their own right to life," he states.

The vigil will be held at the Capitol rotunda at 5 p.m. Organizers will chime a bell for the estimated number of children who will be lost over the next decade if the faith-healing exemption stays in place.

Faith-healing groups say they have a First Amendment right to practice their faith.

Kukla says he respects the religious freedom to practice faith healing but doesn't believe that right allows people to medically neglect children.

"I have family who are Christian Scientists and I greatly admire them,” he relates. “I consider them good people, good parents and people of deep faith.

“Where the line gets hard is that moment that the adults' personal expression of their religious belief makes life-and-death decisions for their child."

Past attempts to repeal the religious exemption in Idaho have failed so opponents are trying a new approach this year. They're proposing to keep the exemption in place but limit it if a child is in danger of disability or death.

Idaho is one of a small handful of states where parents who withhold medical care for religious reasons are immune from manslaughter charges.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID