Editor’s Note: This article is in response to an “Ask Reggy” question on my campaign web site, SternesForIdaho.com.
Thanks for asking your question. I must confess, I’m not up to date on the details of the legislation you are advocating for. But, I’ve done some research and believe I’ve come to a preliminary position – though it may change some as I learn more about this important issue.
Therefore, I can not in good faith answer your yes/no questions. I will explain my position, as I understand it.
This issue is important and I am empathetic to your concerns, but also to those with strict religious convictions. I believe in a parent’s right to raise their child as they see fit, unless there is a compelling reason for government intervention.
I don’t want to see children suffer from ignorant decisions of parents or guardians. However, there is no guarantee that a welfare caseworker would make better health care decisions than parents. In fact, I can think of several examples where a State’s guardianship made children’s health worse – Google “Justina Pelletier” to read about an egregious example.
Who has sovereignty?
In essence, the matter boils down to these two questions: Who has sovereignty over the child – the parents or the State? If parents have sovereignty over the child, when can the State’s authority supersede the parent’s decisions – especially for religious convictions?
As a State, Idaho will intervene to prevent child abuse. Idaho also insists that children receive an education.
The U.S. and Idaho Constitutions guarantee our free practice of religion, but, that right is not absolute. For example, would we allow polygamy or murder based on one’s religious convections? Both continue to be no, though the former is becoming more negligible in today’s world.
In fact we are inconsistent on how we view life. Many on the left believe in a woman’s right to abort an unborn child, yet they oppose capital punishment. On the right, many believe in the rights of the unborn child, yet they may not intervene in a medical condition because of the parent’s religious convictions.
Child’s Right to Live – Idaho, Asked These Questions
1. If elected, would you support changing the law to eliminate this exemption for parents who medically neglect their children?
2. If elected, would you be willing to sponsor a bill to remove this exemption?
3. Please feel free to explain your position further:
If parents have an unmovable and undeniable right to determine the fate of their children, whether that right includes corporal punishment, education, health care, or life or death decisions then the answer is “no.” The State has no right to intervene.
On the other hand, if we restrict that right, is there a limit to that restriction? Can the State do anything or demand anything of the parents, so long as it is in the perceived rights of the child? If the answer is “yes,” then the State has a right to intervene.
It’s not so black and white.
However, the issue isn’t so concrete. We accept that the State can intervene when there is a compelling reason to do so. In my opinion, the left sees few areas where the government should not be restrained, unless it involves religion and gun rights. For the right, they are leery of government intervention and involvement, especially when it comes to these same two issues.
For adults, I believe they have the individual right to withhold medical care for any reason, so long as the person is able to make a clear and reasoned decision. For good or ill, government shouldn’t be telling us what we can or cannot do to our bodies, so long as it endangers no one else.
So, where should Idaho go on this issue?
Should Idaho side with religious freedom and parental rights above all? Do the convictions of the parents supersede the child’s rights, until the child reaches the age of competent decision making? Or should we balance the rights of the parent and the child – and “child” means government intervening when the State sees a compelling reason to step in.
Where I stand on religious rights and children’s medical care decisions?
At present, I do not have sufficient information to support or appose your advocacy.
My research to date is composed of emotional articles written by those opposed to the current Idaho statute. I’ve found no articles that support the other side of this matter. I certainly have not found compelling data or evidence that faith-based or religious healing is systematically harming children in Idaho. It may or it may not. I just don’t have the data yet.
I believe it is incumbent upon me to do a balanced examination of the facts, siding with the current law until I have a complete understanding of the matter. Let me assure you, if my examination of the facts determine that children are being unduly harmed because parents or guardians are not using reasonable medical care that’s available to them, despite their religious beliefs, I’d support loosening or removing Idaho religious exemptions.
Again, thank you for contacting me on this matter.
Thanks for asking,
Idaho House of Reps (Dist 25)