The founder of Protect Idaho Kids, a nonprofit trying to repeal Idaho’s religious exemption for faith-healing deaths, resigned from the group’s leadership Tuesday, citing lack of support.
“By resigning now, someone else can step forward and possibly get improved response,” Bruce Wingate wrote in his resignation email, which was also sent to the Boise Weekly. “There are still a couple months until the legislative session begins and an organized push for change could still make a difference, but it has to be more than just PIK (Protect Idaho Kids). Moving forward, I will support this effort in any way that makes sense.”
Over the last few years, Protect Idaho Kids has led several efforts to repeal immunity in Idaho law for religious groups — like the Canyon County-based Followers of Christ church — who deny children medical care based on their beliefs. Idaho is one of few states in the country with a law shielding faith-healing parents from civil or criminal prosecution when their children die without medical care.
Earlier this year, Wingate and Protect Idaho Kids organized a protest march to the Idaho Statehouse. Nearly every marcher carried signs and one or two small coffin frames — 183 in total — to symbolize the infants and children who advocates claim died due to medical neglect since Idaho enacted religious exemptions in the 1970s.
They urged legislators to sign a bill that would have removed Idaho’s faith-healing exemption from civil liability for child neglect. The bill, which was drafted by Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, and former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones, failed to make it out of committee during the 2018 legislative session. Similar legislation had failed, 11-24, in the 2017 legislative session.
Wingate told the Idaho Press there were several events planned ahead of the legislative session for anyone willing to fill his role. He said he hoped more Idaho prosecutors, medical professionals and religious groups in particular would step up ahead of the 2019 legislative session. Otherwise, the following presidential election year would swallow any momentum or awareness.
“I don’t particularly want to resign,” Wingate said. “I’ve asked for the group involved in this to do certain things. I’ve gotten little response, but hopefully someone will step forward. Everything is in line for it to happen. I’m not getting the response, so I’m hoping someone else will be able to get that response.”