Idaho is not for children

An investigative reporter named Dan Tilkin has found ten more dead children of faith healers in an Idaho cemetery.

A former member of the Followers of Christ advised him to go to Peaceful Valley and look for two specific names.
He found them. He found many more.

Garrett Dean Eells.

The coroner’s report says Garrett was a 6-day-old baby who died of interstitial pneumonitis. That’s pneumonia, untreated.

Jackson Scott Porter.

Jackson was a baby girl. She lived only 20 minutes. The coroner’s report said she received no pre-natal care.

Her grandfather, Mark Jerome, says she died in his house three months ago after his daughter went into labor.

“Well, when she came over, she was just sick – like a kidney infection or something like that,” Jerome said. “So she just wanted to come to the house for a couple days. And when she had the baby no one expected it, it just happened that quick.”
The coroner used the words “extreme prematurity” to describe the labor.
Jerome said he doesn’t regret the lack of pre-natal care. That gets to the heart of faith-healing.
“That’s the way we believe,” he said. “We believe in God and the way God handles the situation, the way we do things.”

Then why live in a house? Why wear clothes when it’s cold? Why eat and drink? Why not just lie around and wait for god to handle the situation?

The Canyon County coroner believes Preston had Down’s Syndrome, and that the 2-year-old died of pneumonia.

KATU reported on his death in 2011, along with that of 14-year-old Rocky.

Rocky isn’t buried in the cemetery, but he lived nearby with his parents, Sally and Dan.

They didn’t want to talk about not getting him treatment.

“What I will talk to you about is the law,” Dan Sevy said. “I would like to remind you this country was founded on religious freedom, and on freedom in general. I would like to say, I picture freedom as a full object. It’s not like you take “a” freedom away. It’s that you chip at the entire thing. Freedom is freedom. Whenever you try to restrict any one person, then you’re chipping away at freedom. Yours and mine.”

That’s true. Dan Sevy doesn’t have absolute freedom, just as the rest of us don’t. None of us can walk up to people and hack them up with machetes and then stroll off unmolested. We do restrict each other, all the time, in many ways. That’s the price of living among humans. The price of living at a vast distance from all humans is mostly starvation and death.

Unfortunately, those weren’t the only names in the cemetery. There are 10 new graves that look as though they belong to children that have appeared since KATU’s last report in 2011.

Arrian Jade Granden.

Arrian was 15 years old. She ran track at Parma Middle School.

In June 2012, she got food poisoning.

She vomited so badly she ruptured her esophagus.
She slipped into unconsciousness and went into cardiac arrest.
She died.

Micah Taylor Eells.

The autopsy says Micah died of “likely an intestinal blockage.”
Micah was four days old.

None of the parents of the children who are buried at Peaceful Valley Cemetery will be prosecuted. Oregon wiped out its laws protecting faith-healers. Idaho did not.

So, if you’re a child – don’t live in Idaho. Get right out of there.


  1. says

    How horrifying. Seriously, it could be the basis of a horror film. Honestly, I think that’s the most religion has to offer the world: inspiration for truly horrifying, creepy fiction.

    Are there folks in Idaho trying to change the law?

  2. Chiral says

    I saw this when Carrie Poppy tweeted this a while ago. I live about 10 miles from the church at the bottom of the article (in Marsing) and I had no idea this sort of thing was going on here 🙁

    There was a drive a couple of years back to get repeated animal abuse made into a felony here. I feel terrible saying this, but I’d start something similar for faith healing abuse except I can barely even make it through most days and I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Unfortunately, social anxiety and chronic pain don’t mix well with activism.

    Not sure it’d go anywhere anyways, the majority here tend to be pretty awful people if you challenge their gods, guns or property, but I feel awful not even trying to do anything.

  3. quixote says

    Chiral, don’t beat yourself up. The only thing you could do as a private citizen is try to convince them to stop. That’s not going to work on the parents in any case. (The kids, maybe, but then the parents would probably send a posse after you.)

    The only thing that stops people like that is laws that put people ahead of religion. You could maybe write to any and all politicians whose records say they might be interested. Highlight the situation.

    The rest of us, just because we don’t live physically next door, are no more off the hook than you are!

  4. mastmaker says

    You’re not allowed to abort a month old fetus, but you are absolutely allowed to kill a child after it is born? This country has it bass ackwards as usual.

  5. says

    @SallyStrange: At the bottom of the article, there is the following note:

    The state recently put together a child death review team, which will likely be looking at faith-healing deaths soon.

    No significant move to change the laws is underway.

    Meanwhile, two members of a church called the “Church of the First Born” in Albany, Oregon that is associated with the Idaho groups mentioned here have been charged with manslaughter after the death of their 12-year-old daughter from an entirely treatable problem.

    Now I’m wondering if there is any way to get federal involvement, since the state law in Idaho is obviously lacking.

  6. raven says

    I’ve ended up having to deal with faith healing cults here and there. Including this one.

    1. They are very secretive. They know it looks bad to the neighbors when they practice human sacrifice to their monster god. And that is exactly what it is. Far as I have found out, they frequently don’t have birth certificates or death certificates but do have their own cemeteries to hide the bodies.

    2. It’s estimated that the mortality of children to age 18 runs around 25%. That is huge compared to normal people.

    3. It’s not unusual to have families lose two kids. I’ve found one in a related cult that has lost 5 family members, 3 kids, 2 adults.

    4. There are usually only 3 or 4 heavily intermarried families per cult cluster. I once thought that they were in danger of inbreeding problems. It now seems they are. Infant mortality is high. And what is more eerie. I’ve seen pictures of some of them. Even supposedly unrelated people look almost identical. A lot closer than even siblings. It’s not hard data but you aren’t going to get hard data from these cults without a court order and even then it is dicey.

  7. raven says

    AFAICT, Followers of Christ are Mormon offshoots. There are a lot of those, estimates run around 100 cults. They are pretty ugly. The notorious FLDS polygamists are one other.

    “Church of the First Born That is General Assembly and Church of the First Born, another Mormon offshoot cult and ugly as they come.

    FWIW, when laws are passed against human child sacrifice, a lot of the members don’t seem to mind that much. The brighter among them see their kids dying like flies in agony and they know faith healing is worthless. What keeps these cults going is family ties and social pressure. They think blaming the government and atheists for making them take their kids to the doctor isn’t the worst thing in the world.

  8. says


    It’s estimated that the mortality of children to age 18 runs around 25%. That is huge compared to normal people.

    Source for that? I’m trying to understand how good the demography is behind that estimate – but anything within a factor of forty or so of that number is unacceptable.

    For comparison: current US overall mortality for age 19 and under is about 0.5%, if I read the CDC tables correctly (numbers for Canada are somewhat lower than that).

  9. Pteryxx says

    michaelbusch and raven, the 25% is an estimate of percentage of total deaths and it’s in the OP linked article:

    Of the 553 marked graves at Peaceful Valley Cemetery, 144 appear to be children under 18. That’s more than 25 percent.

    Those deaths happened primarily in three different counties, which are manned by three different coroners who aren’t bringing the information to the public.

    Very few people had a good idea how many children were dying until now. Linda Martin started a Facebook page to keep track of them. That’s still probably not a complete reckoning.

    So the mortality rate would depend on how much of the population is children under 18… which, any way I frame it, seems to mean more than 25% of all children die.

    From comments on the source article:

    On the basis of that cemetery, 25% of their dead are under 18. Â Repeat, 25% under 18. Â There are third-world countries with better numbers than that. Â In the US as a whole, 1% of our dead are under 18.

  10. raven says

    Cemetery, accident data suggest dangerous life for children in FLDS community
    Added Apr 6, 2012, Under: Mohave County,News

    The “Baby Land Cemetery,” located in front of the town junkyard in Colorado City, where only the infants are buried. / Photo courtesy of K. Dee Ignatin

    Ignatin said she was uninterested in the information at first, until she noticed something: Of the 398 individuals interred from 1932 to 2003, half are minors.

    A little more than 25 percent of the cemetery population is made up of those 24 years and younger who died between 1990 and 2003.

    Estimates that a quarter of the kids die before 18 are just that, estimates.

    The one above is from the FLDS. They used to avoid medical care but have changed lately. IIRC, they even sent one of their members to medical school. I guess they just got tired of lots of them dying from simple treatable illnesses. Before that time, half their graves were minors.

    These cults are very secretive and try to hide the deaths of their kids any way they can. You aren’t going to get good statistics. These are closed cults and some of them have a history of violence. No investigators have been killed yet but there is always a first time.

  11. Pteryxx says

    raven #9 thanks for the article. I’d forgotten about Baby Land cemetery.

    more from there:

    “I kept looking for cities in America where children died this way, at that rate. There are none,” she said. “The state of Connecticut is as close as I could get to the same numbers of dead children, and they have an estimated 55,000 children in their state, not less than 2,000, like Colorado City.”

    Ignatin said her attempts to get answers from Arizona officials were “thwarted at every turn, from the county level to the state level.”

    “One county supervisor told me more children died there because they had more children,” she said. “The head of Mohave County’s health department told me that Colorado City was too small to take any statistical analysis. She also told me that they did not want to do anything to upset the people of Colorado City, because they had worked so hard to gain their trust and were now bringing their children for immunizations.”

    Statistics must be of the devil, they’re too close to Science and Reality. *rage*

  12. raven says

    I’m trying to understand how good the demography is behind that estimate.

    As good as they can get without getting killed. Not very.

    There are unmarked graves in the canyons around the FLDS town in southern Utah. No one knows who is in them or how they got there.

    One guy reported one to the Utah State Police, who were uninterested. They said, “so what, it’s not illegal to be buried in a canyon in an unmarked grave.” Well actually it is.

    For various reasons, the authorities don’t pay much attention to the cults most of the time.

  13. johnthedrunkard says

    I think the founder of Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (an ex Christian Scientist who lost a child needlessly) is the source of the quote:

    “In the United States, we have an annual Jonestown in slow motion.”

  14. noxiousnan says

    Michaelbusch @5

    Now I’m wondering if there is any way to get federal involvement, since the state law in Idaho is obviously lacking.

    Me too! Doesn’t the fact that Oregon will prosecute, but Idaho will not allude to constitutional issues? How are religious freedoms of parents in any way trampled when it’s the children that die? The courts are looking at the issue the wrong way. The religious freedoms of the children should be the focus. An infant or small child cannot choose their religion in any sort of competent way, so why should they have one?

    And even if we must accept that the parents’ religion is that of the child until they can/will change it, shouldn’t the parents have to demonstrate a consistent degree of devotion to that religion when the life of a child is at stake? By that I mean, how established in the specific faith is refusal of medical care? Is it a mainstream practice of the followers of said religion? Interpretation of dogma changes from church to church, from follower to follower. These last questions are cruel, but I think demonstrate how much more heartless it is not to at least consider them when handing over the power of life and death of one human to another just because they share a blood line.

    Children are still chattel in 2013.

  15. latsot says

    Then why live in a house? Why wear clothes when it’s cold? Why eat and drink? Why not just lie around and wait for god to handle the situation?

    Quite. Isn’t that what the whole ‘birds of the air’ business was about? It’s almost as if people were cherry-picking those bits of the bible they could use to demonstrate their piety. At the cost of children’s lives.

  16. raven says

    1. Rights often conflict.

    The parents have freedom of religion.

    The children have rights too. They have the right to remain above ground and breathing, to live.

    Conflicting rights happen a lot and so we do the obvious thing. Draw lines. In all states, after age 18, you can refuse any and all medical care and die any way you want. In some states, children are not considered competent to make that decision and medical care is a requirement.

    Makes sense. Why be in a hurry to die? You might as well at least grow up first.

    2. As I mentioned above, a lot of members of these cults are trapped. They may complain about the mean old government and atheists forcing them to take their kids to the doctor. But they really don’t mind it as much as they say. It’s a lot easier than watching their kids die in agony for no real reason.

    3. And BTW, this is just human child sacrifice. These are pop eyed religious fanatics sacrificing their kids to their monster god. It’s dressed up a little but that is exactly what it is.

    If you ask them how they can just watch their kids die, they usually don’t have an answer. When you get one, it is something something god. They are more afraid of their god than they love their kids. It would make more sense if that god of theirs wasn’t imaginary.

  17. LKM says

    The is an effort underway to change Idaho Laws..Face Book Group..Silent Cries The Faces Of Religious Abuse.
    Links to all Idaho stories can be found there.

  18. spookiewon says

    Silly, though, to say “Don’t live in Idaho if you have children.” I mean, if you don’t believe in faith healing no one in Idaho FORCES you to deny you kids medical care. Articles like this are mostly telling faith-healing-believers where they SHOULD move if they want the right to let their kids die, FFS.

    Just sayin’

  19. says

    Hmm? Who said “Don’t live in Idaho if you have children”? I didn’t. I said “So, if you’re a child – don’t live in Idaho. Get right out of there.” Obviously that’s ironic since children don’t get to decide where they live, and that was my point. Idaho protects parents who let their children die rather than get medical treatment, instead of protecting the children of such parents.

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