RELEASED BY: Bruce Wingate, Protect Idaho Kids
Boise, Idaho – Hundreds of concerned citizens marched through downtown Boise to the Idaho Capitol today to urge repeal of Idaho’s laws that shield members of faith-healing sects who deny children needed medical care. Marchers carried symbolic child-sized coffins with them as they walked to honor the 183 infants and children who’ve died from medical neglect since exemptions were enacted in the mid 1970s.
Pointing at the symbolic coffins that were laid on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse at the end of the march, Protect Idaho Kids founder Bruce Wingate said, “You may notice that they are small in size. That’s because each represents a child who died, a child who had been part of a community that refuses medical care to its children.”
Prominent Idahoans and local church leaders urged Idaho legislators to repeal exemptions in child abuse laws that provide religious groups broad immunity from criminal prosecution and civil liability in cases in which children get very sick, become disabled, or die from medical neglect.
Speaking to the crowd at the Idaho Capitol, Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue said, “Adults should be held criminally liable when they fail to seek medical help for seriously ailing children.” The Followers of Christ Church whose adult members deny medical care to their children has a strong following in Canyon County.
Willie Hughes knows first hand of the toll denial of medical care to children can take. He suffered through whooping cough at age three and a concussion at six with no medical care including over-the-counter pain relief medicine. Mr. Hughes shared the tragic story of his brother with the crowd, “My brother Steven was born with spina bifida. Our parents never took Steven to a doctor.” Mr Hughes continued, “Steven got very sick when he was three, and the “Elders” prayed and rubbed olive oil on him. Steven passed away later that night of bronchial pneumonia.”