A small fundamental Christian church in Idaho is killing and abusing children by refusing to provide them medical care. Idaho lawmakers are doing nothing to stop them.
Followers of Christ Church located in Canyon, County Idaho, believe medicine is a form of witchcraft. Instead of treating sick children, the members pray. Idaho law prohibits police from charging parents with murder or manslaughter as long as they believe in faith healing.
The church is located primarily in the western United States. Most followers live in Oregon or Idaho. In 2011, Oregon rolled back a law that protected families that practiced faith healing. When faith healing became illegal, many in the congregation fled to Idaho.
The church is rooted in fundamental Pentecostal beliefs. Families are patriarchal with men being responsible as the faith leaders. Women live in a subservient role and remain at home to raise children. Children are homeschooled and stay out of the public sector.
In the lives of members, God and his plan come before everything else. Members believe that their life on earth is comparable to living in hell. Therefore, they focus all of their energy on their eternal life. As a result, the group takes no measures to prevent illness or death.
Additionally, the community does their best not to interact with the secular world. Instead of abiding by the law of the land, the group follows God’s law.
Due to their extreme reluctance to engage in the world, church members do not report crimes to the police, use hospitals, or purchase health care for their families. For the most part, children stay away from the prying eyes of any mandated reporter.
This seclusion has enabled the group to commit horrific crimes against their children. Idaho law protects them from facing criminal charges. Idaho is one of only a handful of states in the country that provides a religious exemption for child neglect. Church members remain in Idaho because they won’t be prosecuted.
Naturally, the exemption and inclusiveness of the group have created a community that is harming and killing children. Parents within the group say that they love their children and would never hurt them.
A documentary on A&E that aired in September 2018 titled “No Greater Law,” provided an inside peek into the reclusive and secretive group. Group members allowed filmmakers into their world for the first time. Viewers meet a few elders of the church and learn about their faith
The documentary also highlighted the struggle between local law enforcement and prosecutors to charge parents with neglect and abuse of their children. Sheriff Kieran Donahue works diligently to try to change the laws so that parents are held responsible for their crimes.
Donahue shares details about the deaths of children within the group. In the film, he says that children suffer for months to years before they die. Common illnesses that kill the children are pneumonia, food poisoning, diabetes, meconium aspiration, asthma, and appendicitis.
In one example, he spoke of a teen girl that developed food poisoning. According to Donahue, the girl vomited for three to four days and was unable to keep down any fluid. She died from dehydration as a result of the illness.
In a startling scene of the film, a former member visits a cemetery of the church. Within the graveyard, tiny headstones of children litter the property. There are more than 200 headstones of children in the small cemetery. The group has only been in Idaho since the 1950s.
Public outrage has prompted advocacy groups to try to influence lawmakers to rollback the exemption that protects these groups. Project Idaho Kids has worked for years to lobby the government to pass a bill to protect children from death. Thus far, the group has been unable to motivate Idaho Senators to overturn the 1972 law.
Project Idaho Kids estimates that since the law took effect in the 1970s more than 180 children have died. However, the group says the estimate is low because the families don’t report all of the deaths.
Earlier Project Idaho Kids brought tiny coffins and laid them on the capital steps. Each coffin represented a dead child that died from faith healing. Their efforts did not provoke the lawmakers to change their minds.
Lawmakers are reluctant to do anything to stop the practice. Canyon County is fiercely conservative, and a Democrat has not held a seat within the state congress since 1994. As a result, Republicans in the county and state are willing to protect the “religious freedom” of this minority sect despite not agreeing with the practice.
Critics are outraged and believe that as long as lawmakers remain complicit to the faith healing practice that they are contributing to the death of children.
With laws failing to pass the Senate floor in 2017 and 2018, Project Idaho Kids estimates that five babies will die at a minimum in 2019.
Despite incredible public support to rid the state of a terrible law, Idaho wants to keep things status quo. Without any help from the outside, children within the group will continue to die from mild childhood illness because their parents refuse medical treatment.
No child deserves to suffer because of their parent’s belief system. Freedom of religion does not mean that a parent has the right to withhold medical care, neglect their child, and contribute to their death. At some point, the lawmakers have to step in to save these children.
The group knows they are protected and use that protection to continue their harmful and abusive practices. Children are dying every year.
Only in America can children be willingly denied medical care, die, and parents suffer no consequences. All hail the land of the free.
Watch a detailed outline of the group that includes cases of death and abuse:
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*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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