Protesters in Idaho marched on the state Capitol Monday with 183 child-size coffins, symbolizing the estimated number of infants, children, and teenagers who have died since the state's faith healing exemption laws were enacted in 1970.
“These coffins may be symbolic, but the children whose lives were cut short are not,” said Bruce Wingate, founder of Protect Idaho Kids. “This is not a religious issue. This is a child protection issue.”
Lawmakers have considered re-examining the faith-healing exemption for several years now, but haven’t agreed to change anything in Idaho’s laws. A faith-healing sect based in Canyon County in southern Idaho has strongly objected to repealing the exemption; members of the Followers of Christ told lawmakers at hearings last fall and spring that they believe using medicine is a sin, akin to “sorcery” and “witchcraft.”
Idaho is not alone with its extreme exemption laws, but not by much:
Idaho is one of just two states with faith-healing exemptions in four areas of its state law: Manslaughter laws, civil liability for abuse or neglect, misdemeanor criminal charges for neglect or injury of a child, and felony criminal charges for neglect or injury of a child. The other state is Virginia.
Wingate said some protesters backed out after the decision to use symbolic coffins was made.
“We march to send a clear message to legislators that there are too many deaths,” he said. “One coffin says that message. One hundred and eighty-three screams that message.”