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Idaho Governor Wants Closer Look At Faith Healing Deaths Of Children

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
File photo of Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter said he's concerned with the number of children who die because their parents choose faith healing instead of traditional medical care.

Otter announced Thursday that he's asked the state House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem to form a legislative interim committee to study the issue over the next few months. The Republican governor said he believes the state can find a balance that both protects children and supports religious freedom.

“I think that everybody cares about the health of children, but we also have to remember in that in the very first amendment to our Constitution, in the very first of the five freedoms enumerated, number one was religion,” Otter said. “We sometimes have to help ourselves define what is the peaceful exercise of religion and does that include neglect.”

Idaho's faith-healing exemption has attracted criticism over the years as more people learn about the numerous deaths of children within the Followers of Christ sect in southwestern Idaho. Some died from treatable conditions such as pneumonia and food poisoning.

Many children are buried at a cemetery overlooking the Snake River.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.