BOISE | A Boise lawmaker who has pushed for changes to the faith-healing exemption in the state's child injury law has a bill ready to go.
Democratic Rep. John Gannon said Wednesday afternoon he has dropped off a copy of the bill at the office of Senate Health and Welfare Chairman Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, and is waiting to hear back on when an introductory hearing might be. Heider said in January he would be willing to hold a hearing on the bill.
Gannon is introducing it with the support of the Idaho chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Idaho's child injury law says parents who choose to treat their sick children "by prayer or spiritual means alone" will not be construed to have violated their parental duties. Gannon's bill would add the line "unless such practice creates an imminent risk of permanent physical harm or death," language that he said was recommended by the state Attorney General's office.
"We're keeping the exemption," Gannon said. "We're just modifying it in order to prevent child deaths."
Gannon tried to introduce a similar law in 2014 but was unable to get a hearing on it. The issue made the news in Idaho starting in 2013 because of reports on the higher-than-usual number of deaths, sometimes from treatable causes, among children of members of the Followers of Christ Church, which rejects modern medicine in favor of prayer and anointing with oil. Last year, the state's Child Fatality Review Team found two cases in 2012 of children in faith-healing families who died from preventable causes.
Opponents of changing the law have, in the past, raised concerns about restricting religious freedom and parental rights.