Ending the abuse and betrayal of religious child maltreatment

Ending the abuse and betrayal of religious child maltreatment

Religious institutions continue to perpetuate child sexual abuse. Ongoing abuse further undermines any claims to moral authority by religious leaders. Now that religious groups are being forced to disclose this collusion, we must do our part to end religious child maltreatment, abuse and betrayal.

Stories of clergy sexual abuse are all too familiar to those of us whose lives have been devastated by such crimes. And we feel further betrayed by the institutional leaders and their followers who continue to protect abusers and turned their backs on victims.

Here are just a few examples:

  • It has been a decade since the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled a class action lawsuit, avoiding court proceedings wherein graphic details of clergy sexual abuse and cover up would be public.
  • This June, the findings of a Pennsylvania grand jury related to child abuse allegations in 6 Catholic dioceses will be released.
  • In Chile, a court has determined that “a series of absolutely reprehensible acts” have occurred in the Catholic church that involved “unacceptable abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse.”

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My abuse weaponized me against my body. Until my body won.

My abuse weaponized me against my body. Until my body won.

Bethany Brittain, a former board member of the CFFP, talks about how the physical and emotional abuse of her childhood affected her relationship with her body and, ultimately, her health.

When I was 13, I declared war on my body. It wasn’t hard to do. It was quite natural even. There were dysfunctional events and forces in my past that had groomed me for that moment. I had received physical discipline from the time I was 6 months old. My family had unhealthy standards for female “modesty.” Physical and emotional boundaries that were essential for mental health were nonexistent.

Meanwhile, outside of my household, I saw many visuals that defined for me what the “ideal” body looked like. Most transmitted a plastic look found in your average Barbie doll. My wobbles and bulges were proof that my body wasn’t anything near ideal.

It all got to be too much. And so I took the only option I thought I had: I decided my body was something to be despised and declared war.

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Left Behind: When will Baptists catch up with #MeToo?

Left Behind: When will Baptists catch up with #MeToo?

Andy Savage (Credit: Christian Today)

 

At a Southern Baptist mega-church in Memphis, pastor Andy Savage admitted to having a “sexual incident” with a 17-year-old girl twenty years earlier. The congregation’s response? Silence? Boos? No, a standing ovation.

The admission came after the now-grown woman, Jules Woodson, posted a January 5 #MeToo account on social media, describing conduct constituting sexual assault. Woodson said Savage offered to take her home after a church event and instead drove her down a dark dirt road to an isolated area where he had her perform oral sex on him. Savage was then a youth pastor at the Houston-area Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church.

Woodson wrote that she was motivated to come forward after seeing Savage’s social media posts in which he decried Matt Lauer and other men accused of sexual assault and misconduct. Soon after the post was published, Woodson painfully recounted her story for a local Memphis TV station.

Shortly after the alleged assault, Woodson reported Savage’s conduct to associate pastor Larry Cotton, but like so many other victims of clergy-perpetrated abuse, the teen received little support. “He said something to the effect of, ‘So you’re telling me you participated?'” Woodson told the Austin American-Statesman. “This wave of shame came over me, greater than I had ever felt before.” Read More »

Looking Forward: A Message from CFFP President Jaime Romo

Looking Forward: A Message from CFFP President Jaime Romo

It’s about time we begin to turn the world around
It’s about time we start to make it the dream we’ve always known
It’s about time we start to live the family of man
It’s about time, it’s about changes and it’s about time
It’s about peace and it’s about plenty and it’s about time
It’s about you and me together and it’s about time

 

As we look forward to 2018 and our continued efforts to fulfill our mission, these lyrics from a 1983 John Denver song ring true today. It’s about time to not only name abuses that happen when people misuse religious authority, but to gather our voices, our vision, and our shared strengths to transform the practices of maltreatment of vulnerable individuals, particularly children.

The Child-Friendly Faith Project began with a clear vision to educate and raise awareness of religious child maltreatment or RCM. Over the years, we have organized conferences, developed educational resources, and have been called on to support survivors. As we have grown, we have lent support to change legislation in Idaho that protected child medical neglect under the guise of “religious freedom.” And we have had the privilege of supporting those who grew up in, and were abused at, Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Read More »

An Open Letter to the Alabama Baptist Pastor Group

An Open Letter to the Alabama Baptist Pastor Group

More than 100 Alabama Baptist pastors have signed a public statement denouncing “sexual abuse, assault, harassment, and exploitation of women.” Christa Brown, a survivor of sexual abuse, an outspoken critic of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a board member of the Child-Friendly Faith Project, responds.

To Baptist Pastors of Alabama:

I am puzzled. You have joined in on the #MeToo movement to make public your opposition to sexual abuse, harassment, and assault, yet you have avoided any mention of the elephant in the room: Roy Moore.

Moore, a Southern Baptist churchgoer and US Senate candidate, has been accused by multiple women of having sexually harassed and assaulted them when they were in their teens and he was in his thirties. One of the women said she was abused by Moore when she was 14.

The people of Alabama have an important decision to make: whether a man with multiple corroborated allegations of sexual abuse, including allegations involving minors, is fit for the US Senate. Yet your statement of generalities says nothing about the man that Alabamians are hearing about in the news every day. Read More »

Remembering Barbara Blaine, Founder of SNAP

Remembering Barbara Blaine, Founder of SNAP

CFFP Board President Dr. Jaime Romo shares a remembrance of Barbara Blaine, who died on Septermber 24, 2017 at the age of 61. Ms. Blaine founded the advocacy group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

In 2002, as an assistant professor at a Catholic university, I attended a conference on the East Coast just as reports of clergy sexual abuse were breaking in the Boston Globe. The stories sparked my own repressed memories of having been groomed and sexually abused by my pastor and his diocesan employee friend some 30 years prior.

These memories were uninvited, unwelcome, and overwhelming. I had no idea how to move forward at the time. Fortunately, I was connected with the Los Angeles gathering of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Read More »

Are Idaho lawmakers ready to legalize all religiously motivated child abuse?

Are Idaho lawmakers ready to legalize all religiously motivated child abuse?

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As Idaho legislators consider a bill that would protect children from egregious “faith healing” medical neglect, some have a lot to say about religious freedom.

Sen. Lee Heider, who chairs the Sen. Health and Welfare Committee, has repeatedly stated that he opposes a bill that would make it illegal for adults to deny children necessary medical care for religious reasons.

“I don’t find fault in the fact that, because of their religious beliefs, we should prosecute them if a child dies. You know, it’s a first amendment right, the freedom of religion.”

“I think everybody cares about the health of children,” Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter told the media, “but we also have to remember the very first amendment to our Constitution. . . . No. 1 was religion. . . . I think it’s important to remember that they didn’t do ‘em alphabetically.”

Given this allegiance to protecting people’s right to freedom of religion, I wonder if legislators would support the legalization of all parenting decisions made in the name of faith that also jeopardize children’s health and safety. Read More »

A new pilot program for faith communities who put children first

A new pilot program for faith communities who put children first

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This year marks the beginning of an important movement to protect children from abuse and neglect that is enabled by ideology. And the most important players are faith communities that are ready to be role models in child protection.

The Child-Friendly Faith Project has just launched the pilot phase of its hallmark program: the Child-Friendly Faith Communities Designation Program. It’s one of the ways we are carrying out our mission to partner with faith communities to protect children from maltreatment that occurs in certain religious and cultural settings. Read More »

We’re off to a great start in 2015!

We’re off to a great start in 2015!

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The Child-Friendly Faith Project is excited about the new year!

Looking back, we accomplished a lot in 2014. We completed development of our Charter Member designation program, a curriculum designed exclusively for faith communities. We held our first raffle giveaway. And our conference presented more than twice as many speakers as last year. But there’s a lot more to come! Read More »

Interview with Marci A. Hamilton, JD

Interview with Marci A. Hamilton, JD

Marci A Hamilton 200x200Professor Marci A. Hamilton holds the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. One of the country’s leading scholars in church/state law, she represented the City of Boerne, Texas, in a successful challenge to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a case that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Boerne v. Flores. Professor Hamilton is the author of the newly revised God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty and Justice Denied: what American Must Do to Protect Its Children

We asked Professor Hamilton about her significant work as a child advocate and her keynote address at this year’s Child-Friendly Faith Project Conference.

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