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Idaho Senate Tangles With Controversial 'Faith Healing' Bill

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The March 20 session of the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee will be primarily known for two things: the 5-4 vote to approve Senate Bill 1182 and the fact that most citizens who had signed up to testify on the proposal were denied the opportunity to speak.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis (R-Idaho Falls) called SB 1182 "a bill to offend everybody." Still, he voted for the measure, which would edit existing Idaho laws that allow families to use faith as a reason not to seek medical help for their children.

Despite sidestepping public comment, the committee members made sure they had plenty of time to voice their own religious beliefs.

"I believe in the power of prayer," said Davis. "I believe the Lord God Almighty can be involved. I believe he has, and will heal people."

"I believe that God blesses us all," said Sen. Todd Lakey (R-Nampa).

"Christ healed a blind man with spittle and dirt. Was that what healed him? It was because of faith," said Sen. Chuck Winder (R-Boise).

"Most of us believe God can intervene," said Sen. Brent Hill (R-Rexburg). "We pray."

"I believe in divinity," said Committee Chairman Sen. Jeff Siddoway (R-Terreton). "I think that our Lord Jesus Christ can intervene."

Everyone, to the person, that did get the opportunity to address the committee—10 of the 30 who had signed up to speak—urged lawmakers to reject SB 1182 either because it went too far in restricting religious beliefs or didn't go far enough to protect children from guardians who think prayer supersedes medical care.

"If you allow this bill to pass, it will be responsible for the deaths of generations of children," resident Linda Martin testified. "This bill is dangerous."

Meanwhile, members of the Followers of Christ Church, who said they were being targeted because they don't believe in traditional medicine, argued the bill was discriminatory.

"Our children are not neglected," said church member Nathan Kangas. "It seems odd that you have put man before God."

Ultimately, the committee agreed to put SB 1182 before the full Senate for consideration. The floor debate is expected to be one of the most emotional of the 2017 session.

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