All adults have the right to worship as they choose and take part in traditions that give their lives meaning. They also have the right to teach children about their beliefs and engage them in faith and cultural practices. However, with that right comes a responsibility to ensure that religious, spiritual, and cultural teachings and practices are nurturing for children and do not cause harm.
The Child-Friendly Faith Project is a national, nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity that seeks to protect children from abuse and neglect that is enabled by religious, spiritual, and cultural ideologies.
We carry out our mission by educating, supporting, and partnering with faith communities and professionals in their efforts to ensure that religious and cultural teachings and practices are nurturing for children and do not cause harm.
To learn about our principles, please read our Charter for Child-Friendly Faith.
It’s impossible to know just how many children are harmed by religious, spiritual, and cultural maltreatment. However, numerous studies indicate that adults’ ideological beliefs—however well intentioned—can enable them to abuse and neglect children.
Examples of such maltreatment include
- withholding needed medical care due to absolutist beliefs about “faith healing” and divine intervention;
- administering injurious corporal punishment based on the belief that the Bible requires that parents use “the rod” to control disobedient children;
- failing to report sexual abuse to protect the image of a religious leader or faith community;
- communicating religious teachings in a way that is emotionally abusive
- indoctrinating children in a belief system (living a faith “through” a child)
The physical and psychological damage of such maltreatment can be debilitating and last a lifetime. Some victims do not survive. For many, there is a spiritual cost, especially if the perpetrator is a member of the clergy.
It’s critical that faith communities and professionals, such as social workers, law enforcement, attorneys, pediatricians and mental health professionals learn about these issues. They must learn how to recognize and understand the signs of ideologically driven maltreatment, the risk factors, and their legal obligations in reporting suspected cases.
Faith communities and professionals can make a difference by participating in the educational programs we offer. Our conferences provide compelling and practical information to people of all faiths and philosophies; our Child-Friendly Faith Communities Designation Program provides a way for religious organizations to privately discuss and learn about these issues, and, with our marketing support, grow their memberships; our CFFP Professionals Webinar Series consists of trainings designed specifically for those who work in fields related to child protection.
By educating and supporting faith communities and professionals in their efforts to discuss, learn about, and protect children from abuse and neglect enabled by ideology, we can better ensure that a religious, spiritual, or cultural upbringing is a nurturing experience for every child.
We’d love to hear from you! If you would like to help us in our mission, you can give a financial contribution and even target it to a specific program by clicking here. Want to volunteer? Have questions? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Victor I. Vieth, “When Faith Hurts: Overcoming Spirituality-Based Blocks before, during, and after the Forensic Interview,” Center Piece, Vol. 2, Issue 10, 2010 (accessed June 25, 2014).