Halloween greeting cards are not uncommon, but one particular card showing up in the mailboxes of most lawmakers in the Idaho Legislature is unsettling.
"Even the Pumpkins Are Sad This Halloween. Why?" reads the card, next to a picture of a frowning jack-o-lantern wearing a baby hat and booties and sucking on a pacifier. Inside the cards is a grim reminder of an issue the legislature has been debating for years with no resolution: "Three more children died in Idaho's anti-medical sects in two months this year," it reads. "No action was taken because of Idaho's religious exemptions."
The card is from the Protect Idaho Kids Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to combat the Idaho law that exempts parents from prosecution if they withhold medical treatment from their children for religious reasons. The 2017 Idaho Legislature rejected a compromise proposal, which would have made parents civilly liable if their children suffered permanent injury or died due to lack of medical treatment.
"It seems we need to become more direct and let the legislators and public know the hard, harsh facts," said Bruce Wingate, founder of Protect Idaho Kids. "So, our Halloween card, being sent to all the legislators, states clearly that kids are dying, and it's up to the legislature to stop these deaths."
Wingate sent the card as a response to the lack of support for the compromise at the Idaho Statehouse—from either side of the political aisle. Some Republicans argued the bill targeted freedom of religion, while some Democrats said the proposal didn't go far enough in punishing parents who believe in faith-healing.
"Since [the Idaho laws] have been enacted, at least 182 children have died in Idaho's anti-medical sects," reads the Halloween card. "Please do your duty and protect the children. Repeal these laws and let them live."