What We Do


The Child-Friendly Faith Project is a national, nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity that seeks to end religious child maltreatment or RCM, which is defined as child abuse or neglect that is enabled by religious beliefs held by perpetrators, victims, or the surrounding community.

We fulfill our mission by raising awareness of RCM through educational programs that benefit the general public, survivors, faith communities, and professionals who work in the field of child protection.

To learn more about religious child maltreatment, please click here. Our principles are stated in the Charter for Child-Friendly Faith


Children throughout the US and the world suffer child abuse or neglect enabled by religious belief every day. The impacts of this maltreatment can have serious longterm effects and can even be fatal. Whether a child is raised Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or of any other faith, he or she is at risk, particularly if the adults responsible for their wellbeing are part of an authoritarian culture.

Religious organizations in the US collectively have paid billions of dollars settling lawsuits with those they have harmed. High-profile cases of religious child maltreatment regularly appear in the news. You can find memoirs written by survivors who grew up in just about every religion, spiritual group, and cult.

Consider these statistics*:

  • A 1984 study reviewing the health status of children in cults showed that these religious groups had unusually high incidences of physical abuse, sleep deprivation, and medical neglect.
  • A 1984 survey of Quaker families revealed that Quaker fathers reported more acts of violence toward their children than did fathers nationally, and Quaker sibling violence was significantly higher than sibling violence rates reported nationally.
  • A 1995 study that surveyed mental health professionals found that certain kinds of allegations of abuse fell under 3 categories: torturing or killing a child to rid him or her of evil, withholding needed medical care for religious reasons, and abusing a child under the cover of a religious role.
  • A 1998 study published in Pediatrics looked at 172 child deaths occurring in church groups that strongly promoted “faith healing” to cure illness and found that the medical conditions of 140 children would have yielded a 90% survival rate had they received medical care.
  • A 1999 study showed that the more ideologically conservative parents are, the more likely they are to have positive attitudes toward physically punishing children and the more important religion is to parents, the more likely they are to have attitudes that devalue and verbally abuse children.
  • A 2003 study showed that adults who experienced “religion-related” abuse in childhood suffered from more serious psychological problems than those who experienced abuse in which religion was not a factor.
  • A 2005 study showed that individuals who are extrinsically religious (viewed religiosity as a means for attaining other goals rather than as an end in itself) have an increased risk of perpetrating child physical abuse.


Our goal is to help people better understand and talk about RCM, identify it and its risk factors, and to recognize its negative impact on children. We reach a multitude of audiences, such as academics, survivors, faith community members, and the media. Our programs do the following:

1. We engage with the General Public and the Media.
Our website offers extensive resources on RCM. We oversee social media outlets that allow the public to discuss and learn about this issue, and we give media interviews and slideshow presentations at meetings and conferences.

2. We support and advocate for Survivors.
We maintain a clearinghouse of resources to help survivors of RCM find reputable therapeutic programs, and we advocate on behalf of survivors seeking to communicate with religious institutions and organizations that have harmed them. An example of this work is what we have been doing on behalf of survivors of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch.

3. We educate Faith Communities and Professionals.
We offer curricula to faith communities and information to professionals who work in the field of child protection to help them learn how to better prevent RCM and respond to cases. One religious organization that served as a pilot site was Unity of Austin.

4. We partner with other Child Advocates.
Thankfully, there are many other child advocacy organizations doing great work. We promote their programs, share resources, and make join presentations at events. An example is our efforts to help Protect Idaho Kids raise awareness of harmful religious exemptions that have led to 183 children dying from medical neglect.

5. We contribute to Academic Research.
Our website offers researchers a unique clearinghouse of verified academic study into the subject of religious child maltreatment and tangential topics. This program area will be made public with the launch of the CFFP’s revised website in 2018.


Would you like to volunteer for the CFFP? Would you be kind enough to make a donation. If so, please click here. Just want to talk about the issues? Please email us at info@childfriendlyfaith.org and we’ll set up a time to talk. Thank you for being part of our Child-Friendly Faith movement!

*Heimlich, Janet. “Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment.” Prometheus Books, 2011. 27-28.