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It’s been said that more children die in Idaho due to faith-based religious neglect than in any other state. Canyon County is especially awful as it’s the focal point of the Followers of Christ sect which believes sick children should be prayed over in lieu of seeing any medical professional.
Last year, the Idaho Child Fatality Review Team found that five children died unnecessarily due to their parents’ religious beliefs. Legislators have tried to repeal the part of the state law that allows parents to choose prayer over medical care without consequence, but they haven’t been successful yet.
Now Jim Jones is weighing in. He’s a former State Supreme Court chief justice as well as former Idaho attorney general, which is to say he knows something about the law. And in a letter to the Idaho State Journal, he says that it’s about time these parents were punished.


Adults can decide for themselves on health care matters. If they decide to forego medical intervention for themselves for religious reasons, that is their prerogative. The State has an interest, however, in safeguarding the health and safety of minor children, who cannot decide for themselves. Our laws have numerous protections for children that do not contain religious exemptions — marital age, child labor, ability to contract, and the like. The right to have basic life-saving healthcare trumps all of those protections.

Jones also notes that Idaho, the red state that it is, has routinely pushed anti-abortion legislation that forces women to carry a fetus to term. So why is a “pro-life” state letting children die just because their parents hold harmful religious beliefs?

… During the last several decades, the Legislature has passed numerous statutes intended to support the right to life by using the power of the government to require women to carry a fetus to term.
None of those measures contained a religious exemption. The question arises as to whether the right to life of some children in Idaho ceases upon birth. It is time for the Legislature to stand up for our children and to require faith-healing parents to provide basic healthcare to their children.

Republicans have an overwhelming majority of the seats in both the state House and Senate. That makes this even more difficult because, in their minds, this is about “religious liberty.” But when children are dying because of their parents’ neglect and their legislators’ inaction, when does a sense of morality ever kick in?
Given how so many Republicans continue to back Roy Moore in Alabama despite multiple allegations of what he did to children, it’s hard to think the Idaho GOP will suddenly start caring about kids. But if they had any sense of decency, they wouldn’t even hesitate to do what Jones is suggesting.
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier. Screenshot via YouTube)

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.

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