In Idaho, ‘Faith-Healing’ May Have Killed More Children Than We Ever Suspected

We’ve heard the stories of those poor children in Oregon who died after their parents, on account of their religious faith, refused to take them to doctors. The kids died from preventable causes because their health was put in God’s hands instead of the care of those who knew what they were doing. (And existed.)

15-month-old Ava Worthington. 16-year-old Neil Beagley. 8-month-old Alayna May Wyland. 9-hour-old David Hickman died that way.

And now, Dan Tilkin, a reporter at KATU in Oregon, tells us he went one state over, to Idaho, and stumbled upon several more children who were killed because of their parents’ neglect and faith.

A former member of the Followers of Christ [Church] advised [Tilkin] to go to Peaceful Valley [Cemetery] and look for two specific names.

He found them. He found many more.

Nearly a dozen more, in fact. Some of them died of pneumonia. (Pneumonia! In this day and age!) Tilkin even visited the parents of one of those kids, Rockwell Sevy. That encounter didn’t go so well:

“What I will talk to you about is the law,” Dan Sevy said. “I would like to remind you this country was founded on religious freedom, and on freedom in general. I would like to say, I picture freedom as a full object. It’s not like you take “a” freedom away. It’s that you chip at the entire thing. Freedom is freedom. Whenever you try to restrict any one person, then you’re chipping away at freedom. Yours and mine.”

That was that. Sevy didn’t want to talk any more about it.

“I told you I’m not going to do that,” he said. “You don’t understand the full story, and I’m not going to stand in front of a camera and give you the whole story. It’s just not going to happen. I see the way these things get edited out.

All I see is an aggressive campaign against Christianity in general, it’s amazing to me in this day and age where Muslims get soft pedaled and Christians are under attack. It just blows my mind.”

These families are almost all members of Followers of Christ churches, which teach that prayers, not doctors, fix your health problems.

So is there any way to fix this travesty? Yep. Oregon already did. They passed a law that removed faith-healing as a defense for parents whose kids die. God is no longer an excuse for their negligence.

Idaho, on the other hand, has no such law. As it stands,

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.

That’s just unacceptable. And it’s unlikely to change anytime soon, given that the Idaho House and Senate are dominated by Republicans.

I wouldn’t care so much if these parents were trying to heal themselves through prayer. But when they kill someone else because of their beliefs, they shouldn’t be let off the hook. God is not a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

In the meantime, this Facebook group dedicated to the victims will just keep posting premature obituaries until Idaho politicians find the courage to take some action.

(Thanks to Gil for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.