Jun 7 • 7M

Republicans Vote to Ban Children from Churches

GOP takes on sex predators.

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Charlotte Clymer
Charlotte Clymer is a writer and LGBTQ advocate. You've probably seen her on Twitter (@cmclymer). This is the podcast version of her blog "Charlotte's Web Thoughts", which you can subscribe to here: charlotteclymer.substack.com
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(House Speaker Kevin McCarthy; image credit: Chip Somodevilla // Staff)

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(WASHINGTON) — On Tuesday, House Republicans passed sweeping legislation that would prohibit all minors from entering Christian places of worship, ban Christian clergy from public K-12 campuses, and otherwise restrict interaction between children and Christian clergy in public spaces.

The Children’s Health and Religious Integrity, Safety, and Trust Act of 2023—CHRIST Act—was introduced only weeks ago in response to a massive public outcry over widespread sexual abuse of children across numerous Christian denominations in the United States.

“I am thankful to my colleagues for ensuring rapid passage of this bill, and I urge our Senate counterparts and the White House to seek immediate passage and implementation,” said House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has won praise for his leadership in confronting sexual abuse in churches.

The sexual exploitation of children by Christian clergy has come to the forefront of the nation’s conscience following seemingly unending revelations over the past two decades of adults in positions of authority assaulting and raping minors within their congregations only for that abuse to be swept under the rug.

In the United States, sexual abuse of children in Catholic parishes, alone, have led to about $4 billion in payouts to more than 17,000 survivors, according to data compiled by U.S. Catholic dioceses. Despite the widespread documented abuse, only one arrest has been made in connection with these cases: a defrocked priest charged with lying to FBI agents.

Some experts believe those numbers are just scratching the surface and could as much as double within the next decade as more investigations conclude their findings.

This past April, a report released by the Maryland Attorney General found that more 600 children have been sexually abused by priests and other church officials in state parishes.

Last month, the Illinois Attorney General released a report revealing that 2,000 children in his state had been sexually abused by Catholic officials.

The investigations were at least partially motivated by a report published five years ago by then-Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro—now that state’s governor—detailing at least 1,000 survivors of sexual abuse by more than 300 priests and the myriad efforts by church officials to cover it up.

For example, in 2019, the Associated Press reported that nearly a thousand clergy members accused of child sexual abuse had been left off lists circulated by Catholic dioceses, including more than 100 former clergy members who have already been charged with rape or possession of child pornography.

Reports of child sexual abuse in Christian churches have gone far beyond U.S. Catholic dioceses.

For several years, the Southern Baptist Convention has been reconciling with ongoing revelations that have, to date, found more 700 victims of sexual abuse by about 380 clergy and other church leaders. Survivors were “stonewalled and denigrated” by top SBC leaders, according to a report released last year.

Sexual abuse scandals have similarly plagued white evangelical, charismatic, or independently-affiliated churches. Released this week, the Amazon Prime docuseries “Shiny Happy People” details a startling, widespread pattern of sexual abuse among congregants subscribing to teachings of the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP), a nondenominational Christian organization that has gained major influence in the United States.

The documentary laid out efforts to cover-up various sex crimes by Josh Duggar, the eldest son in the reality TV family featured in TLC series “19 Kids and Counting,” including molestation and possession of child pornography. It then revealed evidence of countless other alleged sex crimes within the IBLP network, including an implication of inappropriate conduct by Bill Gothard, the minister who founded IBLP.

Countless other child sexual abuse scandals have been cited across the country in numerous denominations at churches and religious schools.

The growing outrage over these reports has reached such a fever pitch that House Republicans, newly in the majority after last year’s midterm election, have taken great pains to distance themselves from abusive clergy and hold them accountable.

“Look, we’re not saying that all Christian clergy are predators, of course,” stated Speaker McCarthy at a press conference following the vote. “But until we have assurance from church leaders that there will be zero tolerance for child abusers within their ranks, we cannot allow children to be put in harm’s way.”

He then pointedly added: “Christ would protect children. These churches need to be reminded of his teachings and get their houses in order. It’s time to root out these demons who are preying on children.”

Other GOP officials were more blunt.

“This is a culture problem,” insisted Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). “You have these men in dresses performing in front of kids and reading to them, indoctrinating our children into an abusive ideology. Children should be nowhere around these predators.”

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