Charter for Child-Friendly Faith

The mission of the Child-Friendly Faith Project can only be fulfilled through respectful and positive dialog. Common to all faiths, ethical models, and spiritual traditions is the value of protecting from harm those in society who are most vulnerable, including our children.* Therefore, we call upon all people to affirm these principles:

I. ON CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

Children are important and unique individuals and should be valued and honored for the persons that they are.

Children have a right to grow up in an environment that is safe and promotes healthy development.

Children learn responsibility by being treated with respect, compassion, and dignity and observing adults who model those same virtues.

Children should be encouraged to ask questions and express feelings about faith, beliefs, and practices without censure.

II. ON FREEDOM OF BELIEF AND FAITH PRACTICES

Adults have the right to subscribe to the belief system of their choice, engage in faith practices that give their lives meaning, and teach their children about their faith.

With this right comes the responsibility to ensure that no faith teachings or practices jeopardize a child’s physical or emotional health.

III. ON THE IMPACT OF FAITH PRACTICES ON CHILDREN

Religious, spiritual, and cultural belief systems and practices can be used to nurture children, build self-esteem, and enhance child development.

Conversely, religious, spiritual, and cultural belief systems and practices can also enable adults to incorrectly interpret children’s behavior, adopt negative perceptions of children, and justify abuse and neglect.

IV. ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF FAITH COMMUNITIES

Faith communities should question the impact that their beliefs and practices have on children and examine whether the childrearing methods they teach and promote are consistent with currently accepted medical and psychological standards concerning healthy child development.

Faith communities should learn to identify different forms of child maltreatment and their risk factors and develop policies and procedures to minimize the potential for child maltreatment to occur.

Faith communities should ensure that their leaders and members remain ready to effectively respond to all suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. This includes reporting such cases to the appropriate governmental agencies, even after the child has grown into an adult.

Faith communities cannot effectively address the problem of child maltreatment in isolation. Therefore, they should develop relationships with local professionals and agencies that can offer assistance if concerns arise about suspected abuse or neglect.

*For the purposes of this Charter, a child is an individual who is under the age of eighteen.