Now it’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Maybe soon it will be the Baptists. We say: Bring it on!
Pennsylvania’s Attorney General has announced a new investigation into Jehovah’s Witnesses clergy sex crimes and cover ups. Activists are urging Missouri’s attorney general to launch a probe into Baptist clergy abuse and cover up.
Again, we welcome these moves. For decades, law enforcement officials have tended to pursue smaller, easier cases against less influential and unpopular defendants. And their reluctance to believe that widely-respected officials would tolerate or enable heinous crimes, and then conceal them, proved problematic too.
Finally, that mindset is beginning to change.
In 2002, the first formal law enforcement probes into Catholic officials and their cover ups began. But there’s no question that child molesting clerics seek out and can be found in every religious group.
(A terrific list of grand jury investigations into church groups can be found here: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/reports.htm)
“But why focus just on churches?” some believers and religious officials complain. “Why single us out?”
Because other institutions are typically more open. (Think of a public school district, with its elected board, open public meetings, Freedom of Information Act requests and state Education Department funders and overseers.)
And because many other institutions have more checks and balances. (Again, think of public schools, where parents who feel safety is not being addressed can oppose school board candidates or bond issues or tax levies and can even run for school board themselves.)
And because other institutions don’t aggressively exploit religious notions to silence victims. (Few hospital executives tell victims “It’s best if you just forgive the abusive doctor who worked here, instead of calling the law or filing a suit.” Few day care center operators tell victims “The Bible says you shouldn’t take people to court but rather try to talk things out among yourselves.”)
In fairness, wherever there’s evidence or strong suspicion of repeated child sex crimes and cover ups in an institution or business, law enforcement should step up.
But we at Horowitz Law believe that because of their unique status AND the even greater harm that abuse by spiritual figures can cause, more AGs should seriously consider more investigations into more religious institutions.