Mariah Walton is 20-years-old and permanently disabled. She has pulmonary hypertension and has to carry an oxygen tank in order to breathe. There have been times where there had to be screws in her bones to anchor in her breathing device. A heart and lung transplant may soon be in her future.
Things didn’t have to be this way, however. When she was an infant, a small defect in her heart could have easily been treated before the damage was irreversible. The problem was that her fundamentalist Mormon parents didn’t believe in doctors.
As Mariah’s condition worsened, her parents would prescribe her a steady regimen of prayer and “alternative medicine.” When she finally left home two years ago, she didn’t have a social security number or a birth certificate.
Idaho is one of only six states that offer a faith-based shield for felony crimes such as manslaughter.
Some of those enjoying legal protection are fringe Mormon families like Mariah’s, many of whom live in the state’s north. But a large number of children have died in southern Idaho, near Boise, in families belonging to a reclusive, Pentecostal faith-healing sect called the Followers of Christ.