Idaho is one of only six states where you can escape charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter, or capital murder as long as it happened as an exercise of your religious faith.
So if your child dies because your Christian Science religion prevented you from taking her to a doctor, you won’t be punished. And Idaho is the only state of those six where children have actually lost their lives as a result of their parents’ religious beliefs.
That’s why it’s so important for the laws to change. When children die due to the extreme dictates of their parents’ faith, those parents need to be sent to jail. Religion should never be used as a Get Out of Jail Free card.
That’s why there’s reason to be hopeful this week — at least on paper — as the state convened a legislative committee to review the law:
“I don’t think the rights of the parents should so supersede the rights of a child,” said Ada County Prosecutor Jean Fisher, who urged lawmakers to remove the state’s exemption.
Fisher said that as a prosecutor, she is held to a higher standard than any other attorney — meaning she can only press charges if she believes the law is in her favor to win. Under Idaho’s religious medical exemption, she has been unable to bring possible child abuse or neglect cases to court.
“I think we should be looking at the rights of children, because children are not chattel anymore,” Fisher said. “Children are not property. I think we need to respect that.”
Despite the common sense reasons to eliminate the exemptions, don’t hold your breath:
The interim committee will continue to meet over the summer, but it’s unclear if they will submit a recommendation before the 2017 legislative session.
Considering conservatives dominate the House, Senate, and Governorship, it’s not clear they’ll do the right thing if it means upsetting their religious base. That would be a shame. It would send a strong signal that they’re fine with children dying as long as it’s done in the name of Jesus.
They have the opportunity right now to call that unacceptable. They can punish parents who allow their children to wither away like that — and they would do it in every other case that doesn’t involve religion. It’s the worst sort of faith-based loophole you’ll ever find.
It won’t be surprising if nothing changes. After all, religion and Republicans have never been a sensible mix.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)