The United States was originally founded with the idea that everyone would be free to practice any religion without prosecution from the government. This included choosing to not practice any religion at all. A clear separation of religion and the government was established almost from the start of the nation. This has resulted in a series of rules that maintain a secular government and secular laws. Citizens can practice any religion as long as it does not deprive others of rights, do harm or break the laws of the country. It is a balance that worked for a long time but became more tenuous in recent decades.
Some people with fundamentalist or strongly held religious views regularly lobby the government and file lawsuits attempting to codify those spiritual beliefs into law. Some of the most notable cases have appeared before the Supreme Court. The issues range from attempting to force educators to teach unfounded concepts of creationism in schools to depriving gay couples of the right to marry. Some of the battles are successful such as not being forced to pay for employee health care due to objections over contraceptives. What some people might not realize is just how harmful some religious beliefs can be when permitted by the law in this country.
Mariah Walton was born to a couple who were Mormon fundamentalists. She grew up with nine brothers and sisters in the northern part of Idaho. Her parents had very strict religious beliefs that included not trusting anyone or the government. This is why they moved away from society to establish their own small home out in the wild. The parents decided to drop out of society and go off the grid. This meant the children were not educated in typical schools and did not have exposure to normal things. One of the things that the children were denied is professional medical care.
She did not see a doctor for the entire time she was growing up. Her parents did not believe that doctors were trustworthy or did anything that could help. Her parents placed all of their faith in their religion and their god. If Mariah got sick, then the parents believed that she would be healed if they just prayed enough. The problem is that Mariah was born with a congenital heart defect. She had a small hole in her heart that started causing serious problems as she grew up in the home.
Mariah describes feeling intense headaches and pain. She was unable to breathe normally. Oxygen was not being pumped efficiently through her body. She begged and pleaded for help from her parents. Unfortunately, she did not receive that help. The parents just kept praying, feeding her vitamin supplements and rubbing her with rancid olive oil as part of a religious ceremony. It was not until Mariah became a legal adult in her late teens that she finally got to a doctor. It was already too late at that point since her heart and lungs were damaged beyond repair.
Mariah disowned her parents and moved away. She is now waiting for a lung and heart transplant to save her life. She is 20 years old. Mariah decided to start fighting back. She demanded that her parents be prosecuted for neglecting her. The sad truth is that no prosecution will come because Idaho exempts parents from providing certain levels of care to children if it conflicts with religious beliefs. Mariah is fighting the government in Idaho to have those exemptions removed completely. She says that she does not want other children of fundamentalist parents to go through what she did. Her story made national news giving weight to her cause and situation.