Breaking Their Will is a powerful and deeply disturbing book, wide ranging in its exploration of religiously based physical and mental abuse of children past and present, and richly informed by both personal and scholarly reflections and insights. This book will have a profound impact upon the consciences and actions of readers from a wide range of religious perspectives who surely will be convinced, after finishing this book, that children deserve to be free from all forms of physical violence in the guise of discipline and the other forms of physical and mental abuse explored in Heimlich’s book.”

— Philip Greven, Author of Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse


“This book is well researched and well written, and frankly I wish there were more like it on this topic. There is a lot of talk today from the Religious Right about “protecting the unborn” but there is not enough talk about protecting the children we already have from abuse. This book alerts one to the various ways in which children can be abused, and are being abused, under the umbrella of religion, and I think it’s important for Americans to be informed on this matter. Our children are our future. And our children are our moral responsibility.”

— Anne Rice, Author of Interview with a Vampire and The Wolf Gift


“Insightful, provocative, exposing, and well written, Breaking Their Will casts a bright light on the presence of child abuse in institutional religion, forcing it out of the dark corners of denial and into the arena of honesty and reality. I hope it is widely read.”

— Bishop John Shelby Spong, Author of The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love


“Child mistreatment, backed by religious tenets, is one of the most disturbing realities, especially when religions also have a unique capacity to cherish and protect children. With courage, compassion, and adept use of interviews and research on a wide range of violations, Janet Heimlich grapples with causes and constructive solutions. This is a book that all of us, but especially religious believers among us, should read as a first step to providing children the love and security they deserve. In my own teaching and research, I’ve looked for a book that focuses explicitly on how religion becomes entangled in harming children and am glad at last to have a book to recommend.”

— Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, Author of Let the Children Come: Reimagining Childhood from a Christian Perspective


Breaking Their Will is both heartbreaking and motivating. After rightly noting that religion is most often not harmful to children, Janet Heimlich details the unique ability of religion in its worst manifestations to inflict lasting pain, humiliation, and terror on the most vulnerable members of our society. Perhaps the crowning achievement of the book is its call to action—a chapter devoted to specific ways in which officials, lawmakers, parents, and even faith communities can root out religious child abuse and remove its claims of immunity from challenge.”

— Dale McGowan, Editor of Parenting beyond Belief and Author of Raising Freethinkers


“A searing indictment of those who use religion to justify a variety of forms of child abuse. In story after heartbreaking story, Heimlich details the shocking behavior perpetrated on children by the very people they are taught to respect and trust. Supported by prodigious research, case studies, court records, and many interviews with victims as well as perpetrators, Breaking Their Will deserves to be widely read. Heimlich reveals an aspect of our society that many deny exists and offers positive suggestions for change.”

— Carol Delaney, Author of Abraham on Trial: The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth


“Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel said, ‘Only the victims can speak for the victims.’ In her comprehensive treatise, Janet Heimlich shares the voices of the many victims of religious [child] maltreatment. What’s more, she tells the stories of those too young, too intimidated, too mutilated, too traumatized, or too dead to tell their own tales. . . . She makes a convincing case for the abolition of religious exemption laws and the education of public officials who in the past may have failed in their duties to protect children by allowing their judgments to be obscured by claims of religious freedom.  She draws a map for religious communities to follow when they need to confront offenders while retaining their commitment to their faiths.”

— Seth Asser, PhD, Pediatrics Consultant, Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD)


“Amazing research by Janet Heimlich in Breaking Their Will makes this an important and must read for anyone working with children. The understanding derived from this book shows just how detrimental ‘cultural sensitivity’ is and continues to be to our most precious and vulnerable citizens. . . . As a victim of religious abuse, this book helped me in my understanding of the dynamics employed and doctrines used.”

— Flora Jessop, Child Victim Advocate and Author of Church of Lies


“Heimlich’s book will be useful to many for its balance and breadth of research on the psychological and physical injuries from religious child maltreatment.”

— Rita Swan, president, Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD)


“Exhaustively researched and gracefully written, Breaking Their Will provides a vivid, and often disturbing, account of the dangers posed by religious child maltreatment. Heimlich doesn’t caricature religious traditions and practices in the United States; she scrutinizes them in detail to draw a startling portrait of what she calls the ‘dark side’ of religious belief. Her indictment is as heartbreaking as it is thorough.”

— Shawn Francis Peters, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Author of When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law


“As a former child, a parent, a grandparent, a citizen, and a psychologist, I found the book interesting, balanced, and informative. Heimlich succeeds in tackling a controversial topic fairly and comprehensively.”

— Arthur A. Dole, PhD, ABPP, Emeritus Professor Psychological Services, University of Pennsylvania, and Director, International Cultic Studies Association


“This wide-ranging, well-researched book should be read by all who are interested in the abuse of children in the name of religion. It is very readable, yet informed by substantial scholarship.”

— Ronald Enroth, PhD, Professor of Sociology, Westmont College, and Author of Churches That Abuse