CALDWELL, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho woman told deputies her religious beliefs prompted her to pray for her husband instead of tell police that he sexually abused young relatives, authorities said.
Sarah Kester and her husband, Lester Kester Jr. of Caldwell are affiliated with the Followers of Christ Church, which has been criticized for refusing medical care for children and adults in favor of faith healing, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported .
Sarah Kester was arrested July 11 and charged with one felony count of injury to a child based on not reporting abuse. Lester Kester was charged with four felony counts of lewd conduct with a minor under 16.
The Press-Tribune was unable to reach the Kesters’ attorneys.
Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue confirmed the Kesters’ affiliation with the church.
Donahue has denounced Idaho’s faith-healing exemption, which protects parents from charges when they decline medical care for their children on religious grounds.
The “anonymity and seclusion” of the Followers of Christ sect in Canyon County undermines law enforcement’s ability to ensure public safety, especially of minors, Donahue said.
Lester Kester told detectives on July 11 that he had been consumed by a “bad guy” or a “demon” and acknowledged various forms of sexual contact with relatives until they were about 10 or 12, according to a release from the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Children and Family Services contacted the sheriff’s office on June 21 and informed detectives that a relative of the Kesters had reported being molested when she was a child, according to the release.
Health and Welfare denied a public records request for reports on the case, citing an Idaho exemption related to the protection of children.
The Press-Tribune also requested Canyon County’s probable cause affidavit for the Kesters’ arrests, which was not provided Wednesday.
Lester Kester was arraigned July 12, and his bond is set at $500,000. Sarah Kester’s bond is set at $25,000.