Senator Lee Heider discusses faith healing

Published: Jan. 22, 2016 at 6:56 PM MST
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Faith healing is the practice of using prayer to heal and has been a source of controversy in Idaho for years.

A bill addressing Idaho's religious exemption law may be introduced in the near future.

State representative John Gannon, D-Boise, authored a bill in 2014 that would have removed spiritual treatment as a parent or guardian's defense in the death of a child.

Under current Idaho law, a parent or guardian who chooses treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone can't be charged with neglect in the otherwise preventable death or injury of a child.

Idaho is just one of six states in the country that allows religious exemptions for negligent homicide, manslaughter, or capital murder.

Gannon sits on the Judiciary, Rules, & Administration committee.

That's where his 2014 bill was introduced and stayed, never receiving a hearing.

Gannon plans to reintroduce a religious exemption bill this legislative session.

State senator Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, chairs the senate Health and Welfare committee, and has said he'd welcome a hearing on Gannon's bill.

"This section of code deals with people's right to religious beliefs, not child welfare. I think this is a freedom of religion issue and I personally believe each of us should be able to worship how, where, and what we may."

Some people in his home district think otherwise, and believe the law should already be on the books.

Micah Ellis and her 2-year-old son were leaving the Magic Valley Mall when asked about the issue.

"I don't think they have that right, that child didn't choose that faith, so why should that child be subjected to not being healed?" asked Ellis.

Wendy Auker was also at the mall shopping with her granddaughter and thinks the current law should be reexamined.

"That child doesn't have a right to make their decisions until they're 18-years-old, so if the parent isn't responsible enough to make that decision I think somebody needs to step in and do so," said Auker.