[Vision2020] Idaho's Culture of Death

lfalen lfalen at turbonet.com
Mon Feb 23 17:21:05 PST 2015

Keep up your good work on this. Have you talked to Dan Schmidt about this?


-----Original Message-----
Subject: [Vision2020] Idaho's Culture of Death
From: "Saundra Lund" <v2020 at ssl1.fastmail.fm>
To: vision2020 at moscow.com
Date: 02/23/15 22:09:04

While there are several potential "winners," perhaps there is no better example of how dangerous it is when the Idaho legislature is in session than the ridiculous "parental rights" bill that puts on steroids the Rand Paul notion of children as property to be owned rather than human beings.
Following the preventable deaths of too many Idaho children who were denied basic health care on "religious" grounds, Rep. Gannon tried to introduce a bill last year to at least narrow the faith-healing exemption in cases when a child’s or death was caused by a treatable illness or injury.  "The bill died February 2014 when [House Speaker] Bedke told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rich Wills that there wasn’t room in the Legislature for debate on the measure that year, the Associated Press reported at the time."
Last month, CNN did some in-depth reporting on the tragic and preventable deaths of Idaho children in “Followers of Christ” families.  For those interested, you can watch the two segments here:
I was hopeful that the Idaho legislature would at least allow an open debate of the proposed bill this year.
Instead, this state’s legislators have decided to go in an opposite direction to "ensure that parents’ rights, which courts have already affirmed, are protected in Idaho in case future rulings go another way."  This proposed bill that is dangerous to Idaho’s children on several fronts had noooo problem making it out of committee – go figure!  The bill’s supporters don’t seem the least bit troubled by the rank hypocrisy of on the one hand again trying to use the Idaho legislative processe to insert the State into the relationship of women and their health care providers to intrude and limit reproductive health care decisions while on the other hand giving a green light to those who would allow their already born children to die preventable -- and agonizing deaths -- in the name of all in the name of religion.
For those interested in even more background, “How to Craft a Religious Exemption Regime Guaranteed to Be Dangerous for Children: The Case of Idaho” does a decent job:
Here’s a snip:
While Oregon finally made strides in protecting its children, the number of deaths in Idaho escalated.  Why?  Because Idaho has created a legal paradise for believers in faith alone.  Idaho has defanged civil and criminal laws that deter such deaths.  Indeed, Idaho seems to be encouraging parents to make religious martyrs of their children, something the First Amendment has never required.
Idaho holds a special place among religious exemption states in that it even immunizes parents from criminal charges for manslaughter, and negligent homicide.  That’s right, Thus, prosecutors cannot step in to protect the interests of children and deter their deaths.  According to Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting children from harmful religious and cultural practices, Idaho has now become the worst state in the country for the preventable deaths of children from medical neglect.
Is it any wonder why so many of Idaho’s best and brightest are fleeing a state with an absolutely reprehensible record of caring for and protecting already born children when it comes time to start families of their own?
And while some may object to the source, I think this timely article does a great job of covering the current situation with the so-called “parental rights” bill:
Idaho’s faith-healing debate pits child welfare against parental rights
Idaho’s faith-healing debate pits child welfare against parental rights
Followers of Christ prohibits members, including sick children, from seeking medical attention
February 22, 2015 5:00AM ET
by Leah Sottile   @Leah_Sottile

Linda Martin, a former member of the Followers of Christ Church, has worked to lift exemptions for faith healing in Idaho’s child injury laws.AP2014
CALDWELL, Idaho — In the heart of the Northwest, there is Idaho. And in the heart of Idaho, there is God. And God, residents believe, blesses some and takes others away early.
Like Neil Jacob Randolph, a 3-year-old buried in Peaceful Valley Cemetery in Caldwell in 1982. “Sleep on sweet Neil — and take thy rest,” his headstone reads. “God called thee home. He thought it best.”
In another row are the graves of four infants marked with identical headstones on which “Infant Bailey” is hand-scrawled in capital letters — pressed into wet cement decades ago.
Many of the nearly 600 people buried here were Followers of Christ — a Christian sect that believes in faith healing and does not allow members — including sick children — to see doctors or use modern medicine. The Pentecostal religion, founded in the 1930s, has long had a presence in Western states. Former members say the church has become increasingly secretive about its beliefs and population after years of negative attention for deaths related to spiritual healing.
Several of the children buried here at Peaceful Valley Cemetery died from preventable ailments like pneumonia and food poisoning. And 70 percent of these children died after 1972, when religious exemptions protecting faith healers from charges of neglect, abuse and murder were enacted in Idaho and around the country. If a child dies or is abused in Idaho, law states that a parent can’t be found guilty if they believe in spiritual healing.
“The practice of a parent or guardian who chooses for his child 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,” the law reads.
But today, some people wonder how many of the dead children here could have been saved. Idaho is one of only six U.S. states that allow religious exemption for negligent homicide, manslaughter or capital murder. While some have called for the Gem State’s law to be revised, efforts have gained little traction. A bill introduced last year was swiftly nixed by Idaho’s House speaker, and lawmakers say they haven’t heard of any bills coming forward in this year’s session. And this week, the House State Affairs Committee passed a bill — despite emotional testimony — that recognizes that Idaho parents and guardians “have a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, education and control of their children.” Many expressed concern that this was just another covert protection for faith healers
Efforts to discuss Idaho’s laws by Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), a national organization working to protect children, have been met coolly by the Idaho Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk. “The governor has indicated that he will not take a position on this legislation, and therefore the task force will not be taking a position,” its chairman wrote in an email last fall to CHILD. “Individuals may act independently as they desire.”
Idaho is bucking the legal trend around the country, particularly in Northwestern states, where religious shield laws are quickly falling away. Oregon removed its laws in 2011 and has seen convictions of faith healers in recent months. Earlier this month, Washington took steps to revamp its law by passing a bill unanimously through committee that would remove references to faith-based exemptions regarding criminal mistreatment of children and vulnerable adults. Supporters of reform testified that Washington’s current law creates “confusion that results in harm to children.”
But in deeply religious Idaho, debate over faith-based protections raises questions about how far religious freedom extends, what rights children are born with and whether government can tell people how to parent.
Many believe religious exemption laws legalize child abuse.
“You can’t beat a child,” said Linda Martin, a former Follower of Christ working to see Idaho’s laws repealed. She said she could no longer sit back and watch Idaho children die in the name of God. “To sit there and do absolutely nothing for a child except pray for them and watch them suffer? That’s just inhumane.”
“You’re dealing with an 1800s mentality in the 2000s. And there’s just no reasoning with it,” she added.
But Rep. Christy Perry (R-Nampa) said the law, as it stands, represents the constituents of her district, Canyon County, where Peaceful Valley Cemetery sits. “They have a clear understanding of what the role of government should be,” she said. “[It] isn’t how to tell me how to live my life.”
And perhaps, she said, Followers of Christ are more comfortable confronting death. “Children do die,” Perry said. “And I’m not trying to sound callous, but [people calling for reform] want to act as if death is an anomaly. But it’s not. It’s a way of life.”
With Perry’s help, Al Jazeera America reached out to two groups associated with faith healing as well as one family, but all declined to speak publicly.
For the past two years, Martin, 60, who left the Boise Followers of Christ when she was 16, has chased down Idaho legislators in the Capitol hallways. She has told them stories of the stillborn babies she saw as a child, the funerals she attended, the birth defects that caused her to recently go on disability.
She tells them about her nephew Steven, born with spina bifida and paralyzed from the waist down. He was never allowed a wheelchair. “He had to drag himself on the floor with his fingers,” she said. “He was given nothing for pain. This child suffered every day of his life until he died when he was almost 3.”
Debate over faith-healing believers like the Followers of Christ is part of one of the longest-running conversations in America, said Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute and a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center.
“We’ve made a commitment as a country to protect the rights of people to follow their God as far as possible,” he said. “The question has always been in the United States, How far is that? How far is the line? The struggle is to determine [where] the government has the right to draw the line.”
Haynes points to the 1878 Supreme Court case Reynolds v. United States, in which the court struck down polygamy. “That was sort of one of the great moments of line drawing. Yes, everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe, and that right is absolute. But the right to act on one’s religious beliefs is not absolute.”
“I don’t think that there’s any room under the law for endangering the life of a child. Or under the First Amendment,” he added. “These laws are not supposed to extend that far.”
Martin said she’s not attacking religious freedom, but lawmakers can’t seem to get past that. One senator, she said, told her, “‘You’ve said parental rights and religious freedom — none of us are going to jump in front that bus.’”
University of Idaho law professor Shaakirrah Sanders raises an eyebrow at Idaho’s faith-healer protections.
“A lot of the language is a little broad and a little vague,” Sanders said. “That’s exacerbated by the fact that Idaho has declined to really prosecute anyone.”
Perry said her inbox has been flooded with emails from people who want to see Idaho’s faith-healing laws repealed. But most of them are from out of state, she said.
“As you move out West, we tend to be much more independent people, and Idaho is a lot like that,” she said, adding that the independent streak is probably stronger in certain parts of the state, like Canyon County.
“They do not look to the government to help them at all,” said Perry, speaking about Followers of Christ. “They’re very self-sufficient and know how to take care of themselves. In Canyon County, people hunt to feed their families. They fish. They grow their own food.”
Faith healers, she said, are not uncaring parents. They simply trust God above doctors and have faith that God will do what’s right.
“They are comforted by the fact that they know their child is in heaven,” Perry said. “If I want to let my child be with God, why is that wrong?”
Furthermore, she said, she’s unsure of the motives of those who want to see faith-healing protections removed.
“Is it really because these children are dying more so than other children? Or is this really about an attack on a religion you don’t agree with?”
For Martin, it is simply an issue of child welfare.
“What Idaho is doing is they’re opening their doors and they’re welcoming these people in as the other states strengthen their laws,” she said.
Saundra Lund
Moscow, ID
It's a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.
~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

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