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In the American state of Idaho, authorities do not investigate or prosecute faith-healing deaths.
Idaho’s shocking number of faith-healing deaths came into the spotlight this month as a result of a horrifying case not in the state itself, but in neighbouring Oregon, which, in contrast, has stringent laws to protect people from faith healers.
Since 2011, when Oregon eliminated the last of its religious-defence statutes, officials have been empowered to use the full force of the law to prosecute parents who endanger their childrens’ lives with prayer. The law was used earlier this year against Wenona and Travis Rossiter (above) of Albany, who were  convicted of manslaughter following the death of their 12-year-old daughter Syble in 2013.
The child had been visibly sick for over a year, and had lost so much weight the month before her death that one of her teachers had even attempted to intervene.
The couple’s lawyers had unsuccessfully argued that their religious faith should have been excluded from the trial on the grounds that it was prejudicial. The Rossiters will be sentenced on December 19, and it is not clear yet whether or not they will be going to jail or if they will get off with probation. The Church of the First Born, the church the Rossiters belonged to, is a fundamentalist Christian sect which holds that seeking medical treatment is a sin and that congregants should ask God to heal them instead of doctors.
According to the organisation Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty, at least 82 children in this church have died of treatable illnesses.
Oregon has successfully prosecuted three similar cases in the last three years, putting mothers and fathers in jail on charges of criminal mistreatment, negligent homicide and manslaughter, and sending a message to other faith-healing families that they must seek medical care for their children.
Of the dozen documented cases in the last three years –  and there are likely many more that have gone unreported– all were members of the Followers of Christ, a faith-healing group with a doctrine nearly identical to the Church of the First Born.
Of the 604 people buried in Idaho’s Peaceful Valley Cemetery, 208 appear to be children, more than 35 percent.
Nearly every American state includes some form of religious exemption from charges against parents who believe solely in faith healing in its criminal or civil codes. The church used blackmail; it threatened to withhold funding for child abuse programmes in states that did not enact some form of religious immunity for parents who favoured spiritual healing over medical care. Currently, 32 states, including Idaho, provide a religious defence to felony or misdemeanor crimes specifically against children, including neglect, endangerment and abuse, according to state statutes compiled by Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), a national advocacy group. There are 38 states that provide religious exemptions in their civil codes on child abuse and neglect.
Of the states that still provide a religious defence to felonies against children, Idaho remains in a league of its own. The state’s religious exemption law describes prayer as a spiritual “treatment” that can act as a legal substitute for medical care. What’s more absurd, according to Swan, is that the state’s laws inadvertently promote the most extreme behavior among faith-healing parents because of how they’re written: Parents can lose their religious protections the moment they use any other means of care beyond prayer to help cure a child.
If the parent combines prayer with orange juice or a cool bath to bring down a fever the parent loses the exemption.
Not a single criminal charge has been filed in cases of religion-based neglect in the state since legislators enacted the law four decades ago.
The following year, Canyon County Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris told reporters that she had stopped doing autopsies on children who belonged to the Followers of Christ altogether. Few with power or political will in Idaho have been compelled to stop the growing body count. Earlier this year, a proposal was introduced in Idaho’s state legislature to amend its religious shield laws, but it never even got to the floor. This is about religious beliefs, the belief God is in charge of whether they live, and God is in charge of whether they die. Bryan Taylor, the lead prosecutor in Canyon County has stated that his hands are tied by current law. If they don’t want to have their children go to a doctor, as long as they haven’t caused the injuries, then we don’t really have a leg to stand on in exploring criminal charges.


Outside of Oregon and Idaho, there have been 20 documented faith-healing fatalities of minors since 2008 in 10 different states, including Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania, according to CHILD. That distinction actually once belonged to Oregon, until a highly publicised child death in 1998 ultimately prompted prosecutors and lawmakers to act.
Oregon, like Idaho, had a religious defense to manslaughter on the books when 11-year-old Bo Phillips died from untreated diabetes that year. It was the first time authorities felt they had a clear case of abuse in a faith-healing child death. They were sentenced to 90 days in jail and eventually lost custody of their daughter. While six states have now struck all religious protections for crimes against children, Oregon’s reforms have shown to be the most sweeping in their transformation. Child protection advocates like Linda  Martin, an Idaho native and former member of the Followers of Christ who attended the Rossiters’ trial in Oregon. If we can change the laws there, we might be able to give some of these kids a chance at growing up. True Broga but according to Bob Hutton the child will be fine in his imaginary afterlife and the parents have done nothing wrong because the believe in the sky fairy. So, while destroying their children they have a an unexamined certainty that they are following their God’s wishes.
The vagueness within the miasma created by religion trumps everything including the facts of science.
Yeah but who are the real nasty bastards here…is it the credulous stupefied undereducated halfwit god fearing public?
If someone does this to a child, put their name on a register and bar them from seeking medical help, of any form, for themselves for the rest of their miserable lives. Well if you can abuse your kids with refusal of medical treatment, then you should be able to beat the crap out of your kids too. If the state says you can not abuse your kids by beating the crap out of them, then the state should step in when you are going to let your kids die in a bad way.
I humbly propose that exempting the religious from laws designed to protect the well-being of children is, in effect, making a law that establishes religion. I got just contempt for the stupid preacher, the stupid believers, the stupid legal system.
Does not the above suggest that there is great corruption in the state legislature when a “few” block the will of the whole by finding excuses NOT to remove the link between state law and religion? He considers himself a psychotherapist and a wounded healer, having had to struggle with his own demons in order to become able to help others. In the last three years at least 12 children of faith-healing parents have died in the state, largely without scrutiny from the public or the media – and not a single charge has been filed. The Rossiter’s daughter is not the first child linked to this church to die of a treatable medical illness. One of them, in fact, was Wenona Rossiter’s brother, who died of untreated leukemia at the age of 7. The Followers are also active in Oregon, where they gained notoriety in the 1990s after a series of high-profile child deaths. 149 of those children – a full 70 percent– were buried there after Idaho adopted its religious defence to manslaughter laws in 1972. Most of these laws are remnants of a decision by the Federal Government in the 1970s – granted at the urging of the Christian Science Church, the nation’s largest faith-healing denomination.
These can prevent child protective services from investigating and monitoring cases of religion-based medical neglect.
It is one of only six states that provide a religious exemption to manslaughter, negligent homicide or even capital murder (the others being Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio and West Virginia).
In other words, it can’t be neglect if the child is receiving treatment, even if that treatment consists exclusively of asking God for a miracle. Boise police declined to even report two faith-healing parents in 2010 after they refused medical care for their critically injured son, citing the religious exemption statute. With the exception of one local television station in Boise, the revelations, which have been coming to light since last year, attracted scant media attention in the state.


But the death count among Followers of Christ puts Idaho well out in front as the deadliest state in the country. His family, who were members of the Followers of Christ, prayed over him and anointed his body with oil instead of taking him to a doctor. But the district attorney for the county, Terry Gustafson, declined to prosecute the boy’s parents because of ambiguities in the state law.
The Oregonian newspaper in Portland, the state’s largest paper, launched an investigative series on faith-healing deaths, which found that of the 78 children buried in one Followers cemetery in Oregon City since 1955, 21 had died from treatable illnesses. By 1999, legislators had eliminated religious protections in cases of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment. Within a few months, Followers of Christ members Timothy and Rebecca Wyland were convicted of criminal mistreatment for allowing a growth the size of a baseball on their infant daughter’s face to go untreated. With the Rossiters’ conviction, the state has now won every faith-healing child death case it has prosecuted. And with two eyes that their loving, caring, Almighty, all-seeing, magnificent and benevolent god gave them, how can they not see? Further, as a child cannot be presumed to know the full extent of duties imposed by religion or law that child cannot, of itself, freely exercise any religion. I grew up Catholic, and was never treated for poor vision (my parents visited optometrists and had glasses, but none of us 7 kids did, though most of us got glasses after leaving home), and severe menstrual cramping. Through his formative years he became disillusioned about the ways that doctors in training become emotionally hardened.
Through his formative years he became disillusioned about the ways that doctors in training become emotionally hardened. Her parents avoided proper treatment because they were members of a fundamentalist faith-healing church that did not believe in any medical interventions. But of those six, it is the only state where children of faith-healing parents are known to have died in the last 20 years.
Idaho’s largest papers didn’t touch the story, nor did the state’s public radio or alternative weeklies.
Even the Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk, a non-partisan advisory group, declined to support the bill, which became red meat for conservative state legislators who saw it as government intrusion and an assault on religious freedom.
The really evil nasty wicked bastards are the pastors, vicars, reverends or whatever they are called.
Its parents cannot exercise religious duties on its behalf because that imposition would not be free.
The people who need tearing down and exposing for the horrors that religion causes are the ones at the top. He then found that psychiatric training largely failed to produce healers who were emotionally healthy themselves. The people who profit from the control it gives them, be that in terms of political power, wealth or, usually, a combination of the two. As medicine became more commercialized he rebelled at the depersonalization of services provided to medical customers.
Take away the fiscal attractions, the tax benefits and all the money and trappings then you will find that the problem will be reduced. It seems crazy to label people like the Rossiters as victims, but essentially that’s what they are. Prosecute the officials of god on charges of inciting others to commit murder and then put them in the slammer for a few decades and the problem will evaporate. Punish the real culprits…the hucksters who knowingly con the gullible and make their living from inciting fools to harm their children. So while their actions cannot and should not be in any way justified or condoned, I agree that the focus needs shifting elsewhere.




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