BOISE, Idaho (CBS2) — An Idaho church came under fire for rejecting medical care for young children.
The Followers of Christ Church is a small Christian denomination found in Oregon, Idaho and Oklahoma that practices faith-healing.
Currently, under Idaho law, a parent cannot be prosecuted if they refuse medical care for their child on religious grounds.
At the capitol, a group advocating for change pleaded their case Thursday night to say this practice is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children. They say Idaho's laws needs to change.
Members of Followers of Christ Church are in hot water with the wider community due to their stance on faith-healing.
"My dad had a heart attack and went to the doctor, of course, because he got scared. And my mom had a stroke and she went to a doctor, because she got scared of dying. But they let my little brother pass away," said Willie Hughes, a former member of Followers of Christ.
Critics say faith-healing is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children.
Instead of seeking medical attention for sick kids, parents in the Church will try to use faith and prayer to heal. And under Idaho law, those parents can't be charged if that child dies.
"When you say that that group has an ability that nobody else in the state has, to rely only upon prayer, you have violated the constitution," said Jim Jones, former Idaho Attorney General.
It's a frustrating situation for law enforcement officers, who feel powerless to protect the children.
"They do not have the option to seek medical attention. If they do, it's gonna be incredibly difficult to go against their parents, to go against the culture that they've been indoctrinated in," said Kieran Donahue, Canyon County Sheriff.
Critics of the church say its members not only have differences with the medical community, but rarely feel comfortable reaching out to law enforcement.
"When I was raped at 16, and I tried to turn it in, my grandmother was ill. I was told that if I turned that into law enforcement, that my grandmother would die because of it," said Linda Martin, a former member of Followers of Christ.
Current church members, who did not speak at the panel, argue that they have a right to religious freedom. And that the state can't take one aspect of the religion away without threatening the entire faith.
Protect Idaho Kids sponsored the panel discussion at the Capitol. It's pushing legislators to limit religious exemptions for faith-healing in Idaho.