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Let’s have an honest discussion

September 24, 2017 GMT

Let’s have an honest discussion about government interference, religious freedom and the deaths of children from faith healing families in Idaho, one of the last states allowing this.

The problem

During the past decade 10 Idaho children whose parents chose prayer healing alone died because they were denied the medical care that would have saved them. These deaths are troublesome to law enforcement, the medical field and generally abhorrent to the public.

But they are barred from interfering; Idaho law allows these children’s deaths without their parents bring charged. This is entitled the “Religious Exemption.” By convoluted misconception of religion or, simply theological ignorance with little insight into consequences, in 1976 Idaho added this law to comply with and receive funds from “The child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act” (CAPTA).

Today that fund makes up more than half of Idaho’s present DOH budget. Idaho structured this law to protect “religious freedom.” In doing so it prohibits a court from finding neglect if the child’s parents rely on faith healing alone even if the child dies.

This was probably unintended, but as written, this law also allows not only believers in “faith healing” but actually “any parent” whose child dies, is ill or injured and denied medical care to escape being charged with neglect, simply by claiming that medical treatment is against their religious belief.

This created a legal “privilege” which is a violation of section I of the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection clause” as any other parent under the same conditions not claiming “religious privilege” would be charged with neglect. This law is not only illegal it is immoral.

The Reasoning

Conscientious Idaho legislators have developed bills to protect these kids, but were blocked by chairmen, sympathy of some senators and astoundingly by senator infighting portraying their enigmatic misunderstanding of the tenets of their own religions and their fear of government intrusion into citizen’s lives. However none of the bona-fide religions within the U.S. preclude the presence of a physician including the Christian Scientists. Basically there is no excuse, legal or theological to not end this travesty and save these kids.

The Solution

When the Senate bill failed in 2017, it was hard to believe. The vacuousness of the legal and theological concepts of our senators fell far below my expectations. I contacted a retired Idaho Supreme Court Justice, three attorneys, one a Republican senator of high standing, a well-regarded Democratic senator and a highly recognized Constitutional attorney asking them to assemble a bill that will not infringe on the freedom of religion, but will update Idaho’s laws to conform to the Constitution and stop the deaths of these children. The bill was structured to maintain the right of a parent to prevent vaccinations and will not interfere with the family’s practice of religion in any way other than requiring them to report to a public safety officer or a physician when they knew or should have known the child’s illness or injury could be life threatening.Thanks to them that bill is complete and constitutional. We would rather this is corrected by the Legislature, but if this effort fails a law suit is certain and if initiated it will challenge the Idaho’s statutes constitutionality resulting in the removal of the religious exemption which will then limit the ability of a parent to keep their child from being vaccinated.

If we are to end this travesty, Idaho’s Pastors, Bishops, Regents and Priests need to do their job by educating legislators attending their churches by clarifying their tenets’ inclusion of a physician. What is most needed is for you the citizen to contact your legislators and insist they pass this bill when it comes before them.

Ronald Harriman currently resides in Nampa but is a Pocatello native. He is a retired general contractor and certified residential appraiser. Harriman is a political activist, one of the founding members of United We Stand Idaho, past chairman of The Tax Accountability Committee and past chairman of the Nampa Tax Accountability Committee.