State Politics

Legislator wants to end what she calls Christian ‘persecution,’ cites non-Idaho examples

CORRECTION: This article has been corrected since its original version. The bill is not going to the House floor for a vote; it is only moving forward for a committee hearing.

Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, pitched a House resolution on Friday to signify Idaho’s support for ending what she believes is Christian persecution, receiving cautious support from Democrats.

Giddings introduced the bill before the House State Affairs committee, noting that it was only a House resolution and that she was not attempting to get it approved by both chambers. The resolution does not offer support for any faith other than Christianity.

She cited a recent incident in which a young boy was forced to remove the ashes from his forehead at school on Ash Wednesday, and more notable cases such as a baker in Denver, Colorado, who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding.

Giddings told the committee that she wanted the state to “reaffirm our religious freedom” with the resolution, but at no point did she make note that religious freedom includes faiths other than Christianity.

“If we ignore a crisis, it only gets worse,” she told the committee.

Two Democratic lawmakers, Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, and Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise, supported moving the resolution forward for a committee hearing, but expressed concerns about its true meaning.

Green said she would support Giddings’ resolution, but noted that Idaho Republican lawmakers have again failed to update the Idaho Human Rights Act to include constitutional protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Gannon has been a supporter of ending the state’s religious exemption for parents who believe in faith healing and decline to seek medical care. The Legislature has repeatedly refused to lift the exemption in a child abuse statute that allows parents to decline medical care for ill children.

On Friday, Gannon said in committee that he wanted to make sure that if he supported Giddings’ resolution, he was not indirectly supporting faith healing.

“If I support this, am I supporting a viewpoint that parents can refuse medical treatment to their children?” Gannon asked.

Giddings said she did not believe her resolution would be the equivalent of supporting that specific issue.

Ultimately, the committee unanimously moved the measure forward for a hearing and further discussion.

Related stories from Idaho Statesman