- Ryan Johnson
UPDATE: March 21, 2017, 11 am
The controversial Senate Bill 1182, dubbed the "faith healing bill," designed to edit Idaho laws granting protections to families who use their faith as a reason to withhold medical attention, came to a halt Tuesday morning when the Idaho Senate voted 11-24, killing the measure.
The eleven Idaho Senators voting "yes" were Sens. Jeff Agenbroad (R-Nampa), Steve Bair (R-Blackfoot), Bert Brackett (R-Rogerson), Bart Davis (R-Idaho Falls), Dan Foreman (R-Moscow), Marv Hagedorn (R -Meridian), Brent Hill (R- Rexburg), Dan Johnson (R-Lewiston), Todd Lakey (R-Nampa), Jim Rice (R-Caldwell) and Jeff Siddoway (R-Terreton).
"We need to do something," said Johnson, the bill's sponsor. "We cannot just walk away from this issue."
But the proposal found stiff opposition from both sides of the issue, with some arguing the bill didn't go far enough to protect children while others arguing that the bill discriminated against those who turn to the faith rather than traditional medicine.
ORIGINAL STORY: March 20, 2017
Faith, particularly Christianity, was a main topic of discussion early Monday at the Idaho Statehouse.
With legislative leadership hoping to wrap up the 2017 session by week's end, lawmakers wrestled with one of the most controversial issues of this or any other session: faith healing.
Senate Bill 1182 would edit existing Idaho laws that allow families to use their faith as a reason not to seek traditional medical care for their children. The proposed measure would allow judges to intervene in so-called faith healing cases, but would not alter Idaho's religious exemptions—keeping some families from being charged with neglect or abuse.
"I think we have found a way to introduce a bill to offend everybody," said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis (R-Idaho Falls). "I've heard a lot of opposition to this bill that it doesn't go far enough. Well, we can't get that bill passed. I've been here for a while and I think I know how to count votes."
More than 30 citizens signed up to testify before the Senate State Affairs Committee but the panel only heard from nine, cited the tight turn-around time to get the bill in front of the full Senate and possibly the House.
"This bill would allow even more Idaho parents to use prayer as an excuse to avoid the medical needs of their children," said Linda Martin, one of the citizens who testified Monday morning. "If you allow this bill to pass, it will be responsible for the deaths of generations of children."
The bill also got pushback from some members of the Followers of Christ Church, which dismisses traditional medical treatment versus what they say is the power of prayer. Members of the church told lawmakers that Followers of Christ were being specifically persecuted for their beliefs.
"We believe that medications impact our eternity. It should be left to families on how to protect their children," said Nathan Kangas, a Followers of Christ member. "What kind of nation or state are we becoming when you go to prison for trusting in God?"
Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum) argued that the bill "further muddied the issue of parental rights," adding, "This doesn't solve everything. It makes more conflict. I can't support this."
Ultimately the committee voted 5-4 to approve the bill, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. Those voting "no" included Stennett, and Sens. Cherie Buckner-Webb (D-Boise), Chuck Winder (R-Boise) and Patti Anne Lodge (R-Huston).
"I think this bill comes as close as we can come right now to intervene on behalf of the children," said committee chair Sen. Jeff Siddoway (R-Terreton). "If we go too far, we already know it wouldn't be successful."