Board of Advisors

SA head

Seth Asser, MD, has worked on issues of child abuse and neglect for more than twenty-five years. He is a consulting pediatrician at Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego and  medical consultant to Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), a national non-profit organization that seeks to ensure medical care for children with serious illnesses, regardless of religion-motivated objections of parents. Seth is the co-author of the landmark study, “Child Fatalities from Religion Motivated Medical Neglect,” which was published in Pediatrics in 1998. In 2004, he was presented with the Imogene H. Johnson “Friend of Children” Award.

Sam Brower

Sam Brower is a private investigator who was instrumental in the criminal investigation against Warren Jeffs, the leader of a large polygamous, fundamentalist Mormon sect who was convicted of sexually abusing children. Sam is the author of Prophet’s Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints. Today, he assists in child custody cases involving parents who used to belong to the sect.

raffiadvisor

Raffi Cavoukian is a renowned Canadian songwriter and performer, author, ecology advocate, and entrepreneur. Once called “the most popular children’s entertainer in the western world” by the Washington Post, Raffi has built his career on the core value of respect for the child as a whole person. His philosophy of Child Honouring is gaining support among eminent thinkers as a holistic organizing principle for a culture of peace. With three honorary degrees, Raffi is a respected international figure. His CDs, books, and videos have sold over 15 million copies. Raffi is also a keynote presenter, lecturing and networking to help create a sustainable, child-friendly world.

Howard Davidson, JD, has been involved with the legal aspects of protecting children from abuse for more than 38 years. He has directed the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law since it was established in 1978. He has served as chair on the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect and is a founding board member of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Howard serves on the boards of the National Foster Care Coalition and ECPAT-USA, which aims to eradicate the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. In 2008, Howard was named by the Mayor of Philadelphia to serve on a community oversight board to guide improvements in that city’s child protection system.

joelengelman

Joel Engelman was raised in the insular Hasidic community of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York, where he received a minimal education and endured physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by the teachers of his yeshiva. Joel left the Hasidic community at the age of eighteen but returned several years later to tell his story publicly and speak out against child abuse. Since then, he has been a strong voice in raising awareness about child sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community and continues to work tirelessly to support victims and their families. Joel is currently pursuing a degree in psychology.

Lisa Aronson Fontes, PhD, has dedicated two decades to making the mental health, social service, and criminal justice systems more responsive to culturally diverse people. She has written numerous journal articles and chapters on cultural issues in child maltreatment and violence against women, cross-cultural research, and ethics and is the author of Interviewing Clients Across Cultures: A Practitioner’s Guide and Child Abuse and Culture: Working with Diverse Families. Lisa teaches at the University Without Walls at the University of Massachusetts. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, she has conducted research in Santiago, Chile, and with Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and European Americans in the United States.

shassan

Steven Hassan has been educating the public about mind control, controlling groups, and destructive cults since 1976. At the age of nineteen, Steven was deceptively recruited into the Unification Church. After serving as a high-ranking official in the organization, he escaped through deprogramming. Steven is the founder of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center and has written several books on how cults harm adults and children, including Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs. Steven addresses hundreds of campus, religious, and professional organizations throughout the world and is often asked by the media to answer questions about mind control. He is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a Nationally Certified Counselor.

Dave Jensen

David H. Jensen, PhD, is Professor of Reformed Theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the author of Graced Vulnerability: A Theology of Childhood. He also serves on the steering committee of the Childhood Studies and Religion group of the American Academy of Religion. Prior to his appointment to Austin Seminary in 2001, David was Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana. He received a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship to Austria after graduating from Carleton College in 1990. David earned a doctorate at Vanderbilt University, where he received the Harvie Branscomb Fellowship, given to entering doctoral students showing promise for academic contribution in the field of religion.

Nadine McCombs Hansen, JD, is a Mormon feminist, activist, and attorney in Utah. She has a B.A. in Economics from San Jose State University and a J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law. She has practiced law in California and Utah. Today, Nadine often serves as a Guardian ad Litem for children in custody disputes. Some of her clients include children of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have been alienated from parents after they were excommunicated by sect leaders.

lizheywood

Liz Heywood grew up in the Christian Science Church at a time when the church promoted faith healing over medical care. When she was thirteen years old, Liz contracted a life-threatening bone disease, but her parents never took her to a doctor, relying instead on prayer as the only “treatment.” After a year of great suffering, the infection destroyed Ms. Heywood’s knee, and her leg later had to be amputated. Following years of chronic depression, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts, Liz left the religion when she was in her early thirties. Today she is an advocate for child victims of religious abuse. In 2010, a statement of Ms. Heywood’s was read at the White House during a meeting on that subject.

Hemant_Mehta

Hemant Mehta is a National Board Certified high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago, but he is probably better known as the “Friendly Atheist,” the name of the website he created and editsHe is also the author of The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide, a handbook for young atheists and their parents, teachers, and friends, who struggle with prejudice aimed at nonreligious youth. Hemant is the former chair of the board of the Secular Student Alliance, and he currently serves on the board of directors for Foundation Beyond Belief, a charitable foundation that promotes generosity and compassion in the humanist community.

JMphoto

Jerry Minor is a nationally known comedic actor in Los Angeles. Early in his career, Jerry joined The Second City, Detroit’s premiere improv troupe. More recently, he worked as a cast member and writer on Saturday Night Live and appeared in such network comedies as How I Met Your Mother and The Office, as well as HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and Eastbound & Down. Jerry is also a survivor of religious child maltreatment. When he was seven, his mother became a Jehovah’s Witness and complied with church teachings that promoted the use of severe corporal punishment of children. When Jerry was twenty-one, the church “disfellowshipped” (shunned) him for “fornication” and attempting suicide. But despite this abuse, Jerry followed his dream to be an entertainer. His story is one of pain, courage, and healing.

Stacey Patton

Stacey Patton, PhD, is an adoptee, a child abuse survivor, an award-winning journalist, and an advocate for children. She is the author of That Mean Old Yesterday, a memoir about being raised by Christian Pentecostal parents who so severely abused Stacey, she was placed in the New Jersey foster care system. Stacey’s book examines not only her own life, but the historical roots and cultural embrace of corporal punishment in African American communities in the United States. She is also the creator of sparethekids.com, an organization that promotes alternatives to physical discipline of children. Stacey currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area, where she is a staff reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Rita Swan, PhD, is the co-founder of Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, a national membership organization that advocates for children’s rights to medical care and other protections. Rita was raised in the Christian Science Church, a religion that promotes faith healing over medical care. In 1977, she and her husband lost their son after following the church’s edicts. Today, Rita speaks before Congressional committees, speaks at national conferences, and writes for such journals as the New England Journal of Medicine and Pediatrics. Due to Rita’s work, CHILD has helped states repeal religious exemptions from child neglect laws in eight states and prevented exemptions from being enacted in several other states.

Victor I Vieth

Victor Vieth, JD, serves as the Executive Director of the National Child Protection Training Center, a state of the art training complex located on the campus of Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota. Equipped with moot courtrooms, forensic interview rooms, and a “mock house” in which to conduct simulated child abuse investigations, NCPTC provides intensive instruction for undergraduate students and current professionals in the field of child abuse. A former prosecutor, Victor has trained thousands of child protection professionals throughout the United States and seventeen other countries. He was named to the President’s Honor Roll of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. The Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association named him one of the “21 Young Lawyers Leading us Into the 21st Century.”

Rev. Keith Wright was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1956. Since then, he has served churches in Lake Charles, Louisiana, as well as Lubbock and Austin, Texas. Keith is also the author of Religious Abuse: A Pastor Explores the Many Way Religion Can Hurt as well as Heal, which shares his growing awareness of how the Christian Church, which he has loved and served, can be grievously abusive. Keith is convinced that the church can greatly benefit both children and adults, but, to do that, it must admit that it has harmed, and continues to harm, many that it is supposed to serve. As an advisor to the Child-Friendly Faith Project, Keith wants to help religion create more loving and supportive communities.