April 27, 2018

Idaho congressman and candidate for governor Raul Labrador insists that faith healing parents have the right to deny their children medical care.

Speaking at a televised debate held earlier this week between the major GOP candidates for governor, Rep. Labrador defended faith healing parents, and said if elected governor he would not try to change the state’s faith-healing exemption that allows parents to deny children medical treatment without fear of criminal prosecution.

When asked about the state’s faith healing exemption Labrador said:

I would not change it. I believe in religious liberty. We believe in freedom. I would not interfere with a parent’s right to make a decision like that. I believe that they get to decide.

In other words, according to Labrador and people who think like him, children are the property of parents, and can be denied such basic rights as medical care if it serves the religious superstition of their parents.

In fact, Idaho is known as the the faith healing state, the state where religious extremists go when they want to deny their children access to modern medicine in favor of prayer and religious superstition.

Currently a religious shield law protects parents who claim to be acting out of religious faith, so when a child dies in Idaho due to lack of medical care, faith healing parents are not held accountable.

Idaho statute 18-1501 protects practitioners of faith healing. It reads:

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.

In effect, the law allows parents to martyr their children for their faith, choosing prayer over modern medicine without fear of legal consequence.

Idaho Republicans like Labrador are protecting Christian extremists like the Followers of Christ Church, a notorious collection of small and secretive Christian fundamentalist congregations that make a habit of watching their children die rather than seek medical attention. The church teaches that modern medicine should be shunned in favor of prayer, and the consequences of church doctrine have been tragic: the preventable deaths of many innocent children.

The church preaches faith healing and rejects modern medicine in favor of prayer and other spiritual practices such as anointing the sick with oil. The church is notorious for allowing sick children to suffer and even die rather than seeking medical attention.

Bottom line: Idaho Congressman and candidate for governor Raul Labrador has no problem with faith healing parents allowing their children to suffer and die in the name of religious freedom, and if elected governor he will do nothing to repeal the state’s faith healing exemption.

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador Defends Faith Healing Parents (Image via Gage Skidmore)
March 25, 2018

Faith healing kills: Parents convicted of involuntary manslaughter after refusing to seek medical care for their child on religious grounds.

Earlier this week Jonathan Foster, 35, and Grace Foster, 34, were convicted in a Pennsylvania court of child endangerment and involuntary manslaughter in the November 2016 death of daughter Ella Grace Foster.

According to reports, the couple did not seek any medical care for their ailing daughter because of their religious beliefs. Instead, the parents treated their two-year-old daughter’s pneumonia with prayers and anointing oil instead of medicine, with tragic consequence.

Previously, according to a police affidavit, Jonathan and Grace Foster attributed the death of their daughter to “God’s will.”

However, medical professionals testified to the fact that a routine course of antibiotics would have almost certainly saved the young girl’s life.

The Fosters, who were charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment last year, belong to Faith Tabernacle Church, a religious sect that does not believe in any type of medical intervention, only faith healing.

This is not the first time a child has died because of the dangerous faith healing practices taught by the church. In fact, the Faith Tabernacle Congregation is notorious for “faith based medical neglect.”

ABC reports:

An advocacy group that tracks faith-based medical neglect says the church’s position has resulted in the deaths of dozens of children from preventable or treatable conditions.

And AP notes:

In Pennsylvania, at least 10 children whose parents belong to various branches of the fundamentalist sect have died of treatable illnesses in the last several decades. Several church members have been prosecuted for failing to seek medical care.

Previously prosecutors charged the dead girl’s grandfather, Pastor Roland Foster, who is pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church, for failing to report child abuse, but a judge dismissed the case in December for lack of evidence.

The couple already surrendered their six other children to child services. They will remain free until sentencing, which is scheduled for sometime in April.

Bottom line: Faith healing kills. Children like 2-year-old Ella Grace should never be forced to suffer for their parents ignorance and religious superstition. Full stop.

Faith Healing Parents Convicted In Death Of 2-Year-Old Daughter (Image via Screen Grab)
March 20, 2018

Faith healing kills: Parents on trial after two-year-old daughter dies because parents treated pneumonia with prayers and anointing oil instead of medicine.

Reading Eagle reports:

Jonathan Foster, 35, and Grace Foster, 33, are being tried on charges of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child in the death of their daughter Ella Grace Foster.

The couple did not seek any medical care for their ailing daughter because of their religious beliefs. The Fosters belong to Faith Tabernacle Church, a religious sect that does not believe in any type of medical intervention, only faith healing.

Previously, Jonathan and Grace Foster attributed the death of their daughter, Ella Grace Foster, to “God’s will,” according to a police affidavit.

However, a routine course of antibiotics would have almost certainly saved the young girl’s life.

The parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment last year.

This is not the first time a child has died because of the dangerous faith healing practices taught by the church. In fact, the Faith Tabernacle Congregation is notorious for “faith based medical neglect.”

ABC reports:

An advocacy group that tracks faith-based medical neglect says the church’s position has resulted in the deaths of dozens of children from preventable or treatable conditions.

And AP notes:

In Pennsylvania, at least 10 children whose parents belong to various branches of the fundamentalist sect have died of treatable illnesses in the last several decades. Several church members have been prosecuted for failing to seek medical care.

Previously prosecutors charged the dead girl’s grandfather, Pastor Roland Foster, who is pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church, for failing to report child abuse, but a judge dismissed the case in December for lack of evidence.

The couple already surrendered their six other children to child services.

The trial is expected to last two to three days.

Bottom line: Faith healing kills. Children should not suffer for their parents ignorance and religious superstition. The justice system must protect children from faith healing parents and the clergy members who promote faith healing.

Faith Healing Parents Jonathan and Grace Foster On Trial For Death Of 2-Year-Old Daughter
February 20, 2018

Faith healing kills kids: Protesters march against Idaho Republicans who believe parents have the right to kill their children with prayer.

Idaho is the faith healing state, the state where religious extremists go when they want to deny their children access to modern medicine, often with tragic consequence. Earlier this week, concerned citizens marched to the Idaho Capitol to call on “Idaho lawmakers to repeal the state’s faith-healing exemption.”

Idaho Statesman reports:

Protesters marched to the Idaho Capitol Monday bearing 183 child-sized, symbolic coffins, which they stacked on the Statehouse steps as they called for Idaho lawmakers to repeal the state’s faith-healing exemption. That law spares parents from criminal or civil liability if they deny their children medical care and the kids die.

The protesters said at least 183 Idaho infants, children and teens have died since the exemption laws were enacted by the Idaho Legislature in the 1970s.

Protect Idaho Kids, organizers of the march, explains the purpose of the protest:

The purpose is to honor children who have died from medical neglect and to prevent future deaths. Since the Idaho legislature enacted religious exemptions in its child abuse statutes, at least 183 children have died from medical neglect justified with religious belief.

Indeed, the sad fact is that Republican lawmakers refuse to support legislation that would protect children by changing Idaho’s deplorable faith healing exemption to the state’s child abuse laws.

Currently a religious shield law protects parents who claim to be acting out of religious faith, so when a child dies in Idaho due to lack of medical care, faith healing parents are not held accountable.

Idaho statute 18-1501 protects practitioners of faith healing. It reads:

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.

In effect, the law allows parents to martyr their children for their faith, choosing prayer over modern medicine without fear of legal consequence.

Idaho Republicans are protecting Christian extremists like the Followers of Christ Church, a notorious collection of small and secretive Christian fundamentalist congregations that make a habit of watching their children die rather than seek medical attention. The church teaches that modern medicine should be shunned in favor of prayer, and the consequences of church doctrine have been tragic: the preventable deaths of many innocent children.

The church preaches faith-healing and rejects modern medicine in favor of prayer and other spiritual practices such as anointing the sick with oil. The church is notorious for allowing sick children to suffer and even die rather than seeking medical attention.

Previously Idaho Rep. Christy Perry (R) claimed faith-healing parents have a First Amendment right to deny medical care to their children on religious grounds, arguing that they are perhaps more comfortable confronting the death of their children.

Perry said:

Children do die. I’m not trying to sound callous, but (reformers) want to act as if death is an anomaly. But it’s not — it’s a way of life.

Apparently trying to justify the hideous act of allowing a child to die due to lack of medical attention, Perry added:

They are comforted by the fact that they know their child is in heaven. If I want to let my child be with God, why is that wrong?

Perry’s words are perverse and despicable. To allow a child to die so as to be with an imaginary god is beyond abuse, it is madness.

Child advocate Marci A. Hamilton sums up the dismal situation for children in Idaho:

Idaho has become a destination for believers who use faith only to treat illness and whose children, therefore, die in stunningly large numbers from easily treatable illnesses. The state’s religious exemption for medical neglect and its extreme religious liberty statute make Idaho a haven for parents who would martyr their children for their faith. This is not what the Framers intended or what the First Amendment requires. The blood of these children is on the hands of the state legislators who continue to fail to make Idaho a safe haven for its children because of irrational deference to parents and faith.

Bottom line: Idaho Republicans fail to protect children from faith healing parents, and fail to punish negligent parents who choose to substitute prayer for medical treatment. By failing to act, Idaho Republicans put children at risk, and continue to have the blood of innocent children on their hands.

183 Coffins For Idaho Children Killed By Faith Healing Parents (Image via Reddit)
June 30, 2017

Faith healing kills again: The pastor of a faith healing Christian congregation will stand trial in the preventable death of his 2-year-old granddaughter.

Roland Foster, a 72 year old Christian pastor who teaches his flock to reject modern medicine in favor of faith healing, is facing a felony charge of negligence after his young granddaughter died of treatable pneumonia.

Foster leads the Faith Tabernacle Congregation, a reclusive Christian sect in Pennsylvania that forbids members from visiting doctors or receiving any sort of medical care.

ABC reports Foster “will stand trial on a charge he should have alerted authorities when his 2-year-old granddaughter was dying of pneumonia last year.”

WFMZ reports Foster is facing “a third-degree felony charge of failing to report or refer an incident of child abuse when he was a mandatory reporter.”

The unfortunate child’s parents, Jonathan and Grace Foster, previously attributed the Nov. 8 death of their daughter, Ella Grace Foster, to “God’s will,” according to a police affidavit.

However, a routine course of antibiotics would have almost certainly saved the young girl’s life.

The parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment earlier this year.

This is not the first time a child has died because of the dangerous faith healing practices taught in the church. In fact, the Faith Tabernacle Congregation is notorious for” faith based medical neglect.”  ABC reports:

An advocacy group that tracks faith-based medical neglect says the church’s position has resulted in the deaths of dozens of children from preventable or treatable conditions.

And AP notes:

In Pennsylvania, at least 10 children whose parents belong to various branches of the fundamentalist sect have died of treatable illnesses in the last several decades. Several church members have been prosecuted for failing to seek medical care.

According to reports, Rowland Foster is currently free on bail; while Jonathan and Grace Foster are awaiting trial on involuntary manslaughter charges. The couple have surrendered their six other children to child services.

Bottom line: Faith healing kills. Children should not suffer for their parents ignorance and religious superstition. The justice system must protect children from faith healing parents and the clergy members who promote faith healing.

Faith Healing Pastor Roland Foster (Image via screen grab)
Faith Healing Pastor Roland Foster (Image via screen grab)
February 26, 2017

Faith healing parents convicted of first-degree murder in the death of their diabetic teenage son.

Emil Radita, 60, and Rodica Radita, 54, were found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of their 15-year-old son Alexandru (Alex) Radita.

The Christian parents refused to treat their son’s diabetes, choosing prayer over medical treatment, leading to a cruel and lingering death by starvation.

According to reports the teen weighed less than 37 pounds when he died of complications due to untreated diabetes and starvation.

At the trial evidence was presented showing that the parents’ religious beliefs included not going to doctors.

Testimony heard in the murder trial of the extremely religious parents revealed that the parents prayed over the boy instead of taking him to a doctor.

Records show that the parents had the insulin, and knew how to treat their son’s diabetes, but refused to do so.

Presiding over the case, Justice Karen Horner said:

Mr. and Mrs. Radita intended to and did isolate Alex from anyone who could intervene or monitor his insulin treatment aside from themselves.

Alex died as a result of bacterial sepsis brought on by extreme starvation. His physical condition at death was not a sudden or quick occurrence but rather took place over months and possibly, probably years.

The evidence underscores that the Raditas were well aware how ill Alex was and still refused to treat his medical condition with proper insulin protocol and medical care,.

They knew he was dying.

Directly addressing the guilty parents, Justice Horner added:

Your actions in starving your son Alex to death are beyond comprehension. You persisted in arrogant confidence…until he was dead.

Justice Horner sentenced the parents to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. 

Bottom line: A teen is dead because religious parents refused to treat a treatable illness, choosing prayer over modern medicine, with tragic consequences.

Alex Radita (Image via Court Documents)
Faith Healing KIlls – Alex Radita (Image via Court Documents)
May 31, 2016

Christian parents who refused to treat son’s diabetes on trial for murder.

At the time of his death Alexandru Radita weighed only 37 pounds, and was 15-years-old.

His parents,  Emil and Rodica Radita, have been charged with first-degree murder in connection to their son’s death.

The first-degree murder trial for Alex’s parents, Rodica, 53, and Emil Radita, 59, began last week.

According to reports, Emil and Rodica Radita refused to treat their son’s Type-1 diabetes. Despite a diagnosis at age 3, Alex rarely received proper treatment. His untreated diabetes resulted in numerous hospitalizations over 12 years, until Alex died in 2013.

Alex was hospitalized several times before social services officials seized him for a year. However, he was returned to his parents in 2005.

According to the testimony of a paramedic who was called to the Radita home in May, 2013, Alex Radita was “emaciated to the fact that he looked mummified.” Indeed, his physical condition was so disturbing, many of the emergency responders who found the emaciated child inside the family’s home had to seek psychological services.

According to court reports, emergency responders encountered about 20 people who were inside, kneeling, chanting and praying when called to the family’s home in May 2013.

Court testimony indicates Alex’s father called friends from his church before he called 9-1-1.

Evidence introduced into court include pages of Bible verses:

page-1-

image-2

In addition to the Bible verses, a search warrant at the home where the family lived led to the discovery of unused insulin syringes and expired glucose test strips. Records show that the parents had the insulin, and knew how to treat their son’s diabetes, but refused to do so.

The Raditas had several adult children who also lived in the home, but none of them were ever charged in the death of their brother.

An unsigned note, written by one of Alex’s siblings and introduced as evidence, describes walking by Alex’s room before he died and seeing his mother lifting the sick boy.

The note reads:

I saw his face, it was so scary. It looked like he was dead.

The sibling also writes about getting a bible and praying with a sister:

[We] started to pray, the Holy Spirit said he was in paradise.

In her opening statement prosecutor Susan Pepper said:

It is hard to imagine what Alexandru experienced in the last days, weeks and months of his life. It must have been painful. It must have been profoundly lonely.

At some point the accused knew their plan was killing their son or they knew he was likely to die and they accepted this consequence. They knew this and yet they continued their plan.

The trial is is scheduled to continue through June.

Bottom line: A teen is dead because religious parents refused to treat a treatable illness, apparently choosing prayer over modern medicine, with tragic consequences.

(H/T Friendly Atheist, Dead State)

Alex Radita (Image via Court Documents)
Alex Radita (Image via Court Documents)
April 22, 2016

Secular victory: Tennessee will now prosecute faith healing parents who damage or kill their children by choosing prayer over modern medicine.

In a victory for children Tennessee has repealed a law granting legal protection to parents who deny children medical care in favor of prayer.

Earlier this week the Tennessee House gave final legislative approval to a bill repealing the “spiritual treatment” exemption to Tennessee’s child abuse and neglect statute. The controversial 1994 law provided a shield from prosecution for child abuse or neglect if

the child is being provided treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone, in accordance with the tenets or practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner of the recognized church or religious denomination, in lieu of medical or surgical treatment.

The bill was backed by a Kentucky-based group, Children’s Healthcare Is Legal Duty (CHILD), that works for repeal of similar spiritual treatment exemptions across the country. In a statement thanking lawmakers for repealing the exemption in Tennessee, CHILD’s President Rita Swan said:

CHILD believes all parents, regardless of their religious belief, should have a legal duty to obtain medical care for their child when necessary to prevent serious harm,” Swan said. “Courts have never ruled that parents have a constitutional right to abuse or neglect children in the name of religion, and Tennessee should not give them a statutory right to do so.

Also backing the new legislation was the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The group sent out an action alert out to its members and wrote to major Tennessee newspapers about the bill. FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote:

The victims here are children, too young to comprehend or consent to a course of action that may drastically increase their chances of death or permanent disfigurement. Religious freedom ends when a person’s actions threaten the health or safety of others. We do not let religious parents beat their children, so why do we let them withhold life-saving treatment?

Commenting on the repeal of the law,  FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said:

Such religious exceptions can—and have—caused great harm to children around the country. We’re delighted that reason and common sense have prevailed in at least one state.

Gaylor is correct. Faith healing parents have caused great harm to children around the country. For example, in Idaho, Mariah Walton was permanently disabled after she was denied medical care as a child because her faith healing parents chose prayer over modern medicine.

Now an adult, Walton wants her negligent faith healing parents prosecuted. However, currently in Idaho there is a religious shield law that protects parents who claim to be acting out of religious faith, so when a child like Walton is injured or dies due to lack of medical care, faith healing parents are not held accountable.

A bill that would have protected children from faith healing parents in Idaho was killed by Republican lawmakers in the state last month.

Idaho is one of six states that currently provides protection to faith healing parents who damage or kill their children by choosing prayer over modern medicine (the others being Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio and West Virginia).

The good news is that Tennessee will no longer be a state protecting faith healing parents.

The Tennessee bill now waits approval from Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, who is expected to sign it into law.

Bottom line: Children should not suffer for their parents ignorance and religious superstition. The justice system must protect children from faith healing parents, and punish negligent parents who choose to substitute prayer for modern medicine.

Tennessee State Capitol Building (Image via Wikipedia)
Tennessee State Capitol Building (Image via Wikipedia)
April 19, 2016

Permanently disabled because she was denied medical care as a child, Mariah Walton wants her faith healing parents prosecuted.

Walton, 20, is usually bedridden, and when she’s not, she has to carry around an oxygen tank. She has had screws in her bones to hold her breathing device in place, and she has no options for recovery besides a risky heart and lung transplant.

Yet all of this could have been prevented if Walton’s faith healing parents had simply taken her to a doctor when she was a child.

Walton has a condition called pulmonary hypertension. Her situation could have been prevented if doctors had closed the small congenital hole in her heart in her infancy or childhood.

However, Walton’s parents were fundamentalist Mormons who went off the grid in northern Idaho in the 1990s and refused to take their children to doctors, believing that illnesses could be healed through faith and the power of prayer.

The prayers failed; and Walton is now left in dire circumstances because of the outrageous behavior of her parents.

As a child Walton grew sicker and sicker. Her parents would pray over her, and rub rancid olive oil over her body, but refused to seek medical attention for their sick daughter. Finally, in her late teens, Walton managed to see a doctor about her poor health. But it was too late, the damage to her heart and lungs had been done, and it was permanent.

Mariah says she is angry about the way she was treated as a child:

I feel it is not OK for people to be allowed to ignore modern science that saves lives. I had no vote and no power over my parents, and they were legally allowed to let me get to this point.

Walton told The Guardian:

I would like to see my parents prosecuted. They deserve it. And it might stop others.

While Walton’s parents should be prosecuted, that is not likely to happen. Currently in Idaho there is a religious shield law that protects parents who claim to be acting out of religious faith, so when a child is injured or dies in Idaho due to lack of medical care, faith healing parents are not held accountable.

A bill that would have protected children from faith healing parents was killed by Republican lawmakers in the state last month.


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Mariah Walton (Image via Screen Grab)
Mariah Walton (Image via Screen Grab)
March 9, 2016

A bill that would protect children from faith healing parents has been killed by Republican lawmakers in Idaho.

According to reports, Republican lawmakers will not allow legislation that would protect children by changing Idaho’s faith-healing exemption to be introduced during this year’s legislative session.

Earlier this year, Rep. John Gannon, a Democrat from Boise, submitted a bill that would remove the exemption in the child injury law for faith-healing parents in cases where there is an imminent risk to their child of permanent physical harm or death.

Previously Senate Health and Welfare Chairman Lee Heider, a Republican from Twin Falls, said he would allow a hearing on modifying the law. However, he now claims it is too late in the legislative session to introduce the much needed legislation.

Perhaps more telling, Rep. Heider says he’s not likely to support the change in state law that would protect children from faith healing parents because he believes such a change would prosecute parents for exercising their religious beliefs.

Currently a religious shield law protects parents who claim to be acting out of religious faith, so when a child dies in Idaho due to lack of medical care, faith healing parents are not held accountable.

Idaho statute 18-1501 protects practitioners of faith healing. It reads:

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.

In effect, the law allows parents to martyr their children for their faith, choosing prayer over modern medicine without fear of legal consequence.

Defending the status quo, Heider, who describes himself as “pro-life,” said:

I’m a First Amendment guy, and I believe in the First Amendment, which gives people freedom of religion.

Earlier this year Heider said:

I believe the law is pretty straightforward. We would encourage them to seek medical care. But we don’t force people to seek medical care and whether it’s because they can’t afford it or in this case because of their heartfelt religious belief we simply don’t do that.

In other words, the “pro-life” Republican believes parents have the right to kill their children with prayer.

Idaho Republicans like Heider are protecting Christian extremists like the Followers of Christ Church, a notorious collection of small and secretive Christian fundamentalist congregations that make a habit of watching their children die rather than seek medical attention. The church teaches that modern medicine should be shunned in favor of prayer, and the consequences of church doctrine have been tragic: the preventable deaths of many innocent children.

The church preaches faith-healing and rejects modern medicine in favor of prayer and other spiritual practices such as anointing the sick with oil. The church is notorious for allowing sick children to suffer and even die rather than seeking medical attention.

Previously Idaho Rep. Christy Perry (R) claimed faith-healing parents have a First Amendment right to deny medical care to their children on religious grounds, arguing that they are perhaps more comfortable confronting the death of their children.

Perry said:

Children do die. I’m not trying to sound callous, but (reformers) want to act as if death is an anomaly. But it’s not — it’s a way of life.

Apparently trying to justify the hideous act of allowing a child to die due to lack of medical attention, Perry added:

They are comforted by the fact that they know their child is in heaven. If I want to let my child be with God, why is that wrong?

Perry’s words are perverse and despicable. To allow a child to die so as to be with an imaginary god is beyond abuse, it is madness.

Child advocate Marci A. Hamilton sums up the dismal situation for children in Idaho:

Idaho has become a destination for believers who use faith only to treat illness and whose children, therefore, die in stunningly large numbers from easily treatable illnesses. The state’s religious exemption for medical neglect and its extreme religious liberty statute make Idaho a haven for parents who would martyr their children for their faith. This is not what the Framers intended or what the First Amendment requires. The blood of these children is on the hands of the state legislators who continue to fail to make Idaho a safe haven for its children because of irrational deference to parents and faith.

Bottom line: Idaho Republicans fail to protect children from faith healing parents, and fail to punish negligent parents who choose to substitute prayer for medical treatment. By failing to act, Idaho Republicans put children at risk.

(Portions of this article were previously published here.)

Idaho State Capitol (Image via Wikimedia)
Idaho State Capitol (Image via Wikimedia)
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