Religion can be a source of comfort, strength, and inspiration for young people. But, tragically, it can also mask deviant and harmful behavior. High-profile cases such as the child sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and “faith healing”-related child deaths in certain fundamentalist congregations have made the public aware of such problems.
Yet the issue is far more dangerous and widespread than most people realize. Now there is a book that exposes this dark side of faith, Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment. Written by award-winning journalist and Child-Friendly Faith Project President Janet Heimlich, Breaking Their Will explains how to identify religious child maltreatment, which children are at the greatest risk, and, most importantly, how to prevent it.
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Janet takes an in-depth look at the many forms of abuse and neglect perpetrated in the name of faith, including corporal punishment believed to be biblically prescribed to “break children’s wills”; scaring kids into faith and other types of emotional maltreatment such as spurning, isolating, and exploiting; sexual abuse perpetrated by religious authorities; religiously motivated medical neglect; and the failure of faith communities to report crimes against children as a way to protect the image of a perpetrator or religion. As a way to better protect children from religious maltreatment, Janet proposes changes in societal attitudes and improved legislation and pushes for more people to recognize and acknowledge children’s rights.
In Breaking Their Will, Janet makes a compelling case that, regardless of one’s religious or secular orientation, maltreatment of children under the cloak of religion can never be justified and should not be tolerated.