Interfaith Alliance of Idaho backs bill aimed at tackling faith healing

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - An interfaith religious group in Idaho is stepping out in support of a bill drafted by Rep. John Gannon that tackles faith healing in Idaho.

Interfaith Alliance of Idaho said Friday they are proud to stand behind Gannon, who is proposing a bill that would amend the current law on faith healing, which says parents are not required to get their children medical attention if it's against their religious beliefs.

As we first reported nearly four years ago, Followers of Christ believe prayer is a form of medical treatment.

Interfaith Alliance says while they support religious freedom, faith healing crosses a line in some cases.

"Religious freedom is a huge thing for us and we're very committed to religious freedom of all faiths," spokeswoman Judy Cross said. "I really honor the people who have the strength to do faith healing, but it needs to be balanced where we take into account the talents of the medical care."

Judy Cross says the Interfaith Alliance supports prayer, meditation, and faith healing. But she says there's a line, and that current faith healing laws in Idaho cross it.

"It's an extremely sensitive subject and it's an extremely ethical dilemma," Cross said. "But, when it gets to the point where that is inadequate and a child is in danger of dying or getting a permanent disability because of that, it's just gone too far."

Under current Idaho law, parents can choose prayer as a form of medical treatment. But Interfaith Alliance of Idaho says if a child is at risk of death or permanent disability, parents should be required to get their children medical help.

"We feel that our children are sacred, our children are our legacy," Cross said. "Our children are the ones that are going to carry on after us and we need to be protecting them, caring for them and providing the most that we can for them."

In a statement, the group says they are proud to stand behind Gannon, who is working to amend the existing statue. Cross says the current law puts kids in danger, and that religious beliefs shouldn't come before protecting our children.

"All of our freedoms, we have to be responsible for the use of our freedoms and all of our freedoms may have some limit where it gets to the point of injury or harm to someone," Cross said. "That's when we have to take an extra look, get a new perspective."

But Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg says changing the law may not be enough.

"Removing the bill is not going to change the faith of those people, Sonnenberg said. "This is still going to happen."

Sonnenberg has performed dozens of autopsies on Followers of Christ children. He has told KBOI it's hard knowing those children could have lived if they had just gone to the doctor. But ultimately, he says the decision belongs to the family for now.

"You can have families that are great families and they believe in faith healing," he said. "They're PTA active, soccer moms, coaches, I mean they're good families. But when a baby dies, the way the law is now, nothing can happen to them."

Sonnenberg said he hadn't seen the legislation as of Friday, but would like to see it passed in Idaho.

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