An insurance company is insisting that an Oregon church
--disclose to its members the identity of sex offenders who attend,
--let those offenders attend only one predetermined service each week,
--assign them an escort while they’re at the church, and
--bar them from participating in any child or youth programs.
We applaud the company’s decision. We urge other companies to do likewise. And we urge other institutions – religious and secular – to do likewise.
Let’s start with the tragic fact that one in four girls and one in eight boys will be sexually abused in childhood. Given those devastating figures, it should be clear that the status quo is extraordinarily risky for kids.
(Imagine what adults would do if one in four cars were stolen or one in eight homes were burglarized.)
Obviously, something must be done. What better place to start than in churches? The rest of the week, parents must worry about teachers, babysitters, neighbors, relatives, coaches, tutors, day care employees and those giving music, chess, or ballet lessons. Shouldn’t parents have an hour or two on Sunday morning where they can be assured that their kids are safe?
If someone has sexually assaulted a child, is it really too much to ask that they have an escort for an hour or two once a week?
And is a sex offender joins a church for the right reason, wouldn’t he or she want their fellow church-goers to know about his or her crimes, so the congregation could help him or her stay “on the straight and narrow.” Surely even child molesters who hope to avoid re-offending know that secrecy is unhealthy for everyone involved.
The pastor argues that the move will cause more sex offenders to “go underground.” If that happens, perhaps the decision should be re-examined. But for now, that’s just speculation.
But the fact that thousands of kids are being molested is not speculation. That’s reality. That’s what should be our paramount concern. And while we’re glad that statistics suggest the rate of child sex abuse is slowly going down, we can’t be content with this. Kids are being hurt, something must change, churches should lead, not fight, those changes.
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