One definition of a cult is ‘a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.’ Members of a cult obey their leader without question, and without doubt. In Idaho ‘The Followers of Christ’ are a cult, but one of their beliefs is under attack by former members and children’s rights groups. This Christian organization believes in faith healing. They refuse to seek modern medical assistance, not even for children with curable ailments.
There are nearly 600 individuals buried in the Peaceful Valley Cemetery in Caldwell, Idaho. Most of them belonged to ‘The Followers of Christ.’ Founded in 1930, this cult exists in several western states. Several of the tombstones bear the names of children, 70 percent of whom died after 1972 when Idaho enacted a law to protect parents of children whose deaths were the result of a refusal to obtain medical treatment. The cause of death was often easily treatable such as pneumonia or food poisoning.
Former church members claim that they left because the leaders were becoming strange and more secretive. Some of these past members are involved in an attempt to have the state’s law changed, and require parents to seek medical attention for their children.
But Idaho’s legislative body is resistant to address the situation, In fact, last year when a bill was brought before lawmakers, the Speaker dismissed it without consideration. Idaho is one of only six states to include such a law.
The governor has said that he refuses to take a stand on the issue. Parental rights are allowed to negate the rights of minor children.
Faith healers also approve of child abuse. One former member tells the story of her nephew. He was born with spina bifida and was paralyzed from the waist down. His mother refused to obtain a wheelchair for the young boy who was forced to pull himself along the floor with his fingers.
As an adult, a choice to obey the rules of a cult is his or her choice and must be respected. However, a minor child does not have that same choice. To place the rights of a child within the control of a cult leader is criminal, and more important to religions, immoral.
Would this group allow one of its female members to obtain an abortion? I sincerely doubt it. I’m certain that they would once again say that it’s ‘God’s will.’ But they will allow a child to suffer and die from a curable condition.
Religious worship is a right protected by our Constitution. Freedom to choose a religion based on personal belief is the right of every American. The children who die because of their parent’s beliefs did not choose to be members of their cult, and their rights must be protected by the law.
How is this not an issue for the ‘right to lifers?’ They clamor on and on about protecting the rights of a fetus; what about a child? Because they really don’t care about the fetus or the child; their true purpose is to control women and keep them under the auspices of men.
Commentary by James Turnage