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Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘We’ve seen it work in Oregon,’ ‘Sorceries, witchcraft,’ ‘Let parents parent’

More of today’s testimony at the legislative hearing on children at risk and faith healing:

Dr. Joshua Durham, a family physician, told the lawmakers that children from faith-healing families are told they have insufficient faith if they aren’t healed by prayer, when simple medicine could heal them; and parents risk shunning if they don’t follow that path. “You can give them the out to get their children treated void of social pressures and indoctrination,” Durham said. “We’ve seen it work in Oregon. … We in the medical community beg you to help the children and the parents by changing the law.”

Nathan Kangas, a member of the Followers of Christ sect, said scriptures teach him that medicine is “witchcraft and those that do such things shall not inherit eternal health,” saying his group considers “drug healing sorceries, witchcraft.” He said, “They don’t mention the hundreds of children who are taken to the hospital and die … they die of malpractice, the wrong drugs, whatever.” Kangas said, “The fact is freedom of religion is what this country is based on. … The fact is faith is what Christ did when he walked on this earth, he healed the sick, the lame, the blind. … I don’t believe that we ought to endanger our children with eternal destruction. They want to make us to take them to the hospital, which is the third leading cause of death. How is that better?”

Attorney Kirtland Naylor said, “Today I speak for the children who cannot speak for themselves.” He urged the lawmakers to repeal religious exemptions for adults who “do harm to children.” He said, “Freedom of religion includes with it a basic principle of agency. Agency allows each of us to make choices and take actions as we wish. However, we are not free from the consequences, and cannot avoid those consequences for our choices.” When a parent’s choices cause harm or death to a child, he said, “Consequences should be suffered by the adult, not the child. …  Let children live long enough to make their own choices.”

Miste Gardner Karlfeldt, executive director of Health Freedom Idaho, said she suffered from an auto-immune disorder and declined chemotherapy, instead seeking treatment from a naturopath. “Three years later, I’m actually almost healed without chemotherapy,” she said. She said she feared if Idaho lifted its religious exemptions from child abuse and neglect laws, it could affect parents like her. “If we remove this fence, the next fence would be about people that are holistic in their health care,” she said. “I use prayer and holistic health care. Now what if one of one of my children get my autoimmune disease, and I don’t want to do chemotherapy? That’s my concern.”

Brad McIntyre, who said he’s a concerned citizen, said, “I use western medicine myself for my children, but I also use my faith. Where do we put our faith? I put my faith in God, and at times I’ve used my faith in doctors. But we all use faith for healing in whatever way we want to use that. But I think it is a slippery slope that we start telling parents how to parent, and telling religions what they can and cannot do. I think that we need to protect our rights as citizens of the United States and citizens of Idaho. We need to let parents parent.”

The Rev. Andrew Kukla said half his family is Christian scientists. “I’m grateful for a country that fights for our religious freedom and for their religious freedom,” he told the lawmakers. But he said, “Consider the healthy limits of religious freedom. It’s not about telling me what I can or cannot believe or what I cannot practice in my personal faith beliefs. ... This is saying when our backs are up against the wall and our child’s life is in danger, we use every resource possible to protect them and to heal them. ... We are asking you to fight for the life of our children … because they are precious in our sight and they are worth it.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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