Earlier today the LDS Church’s Newsroom issued a news release entitled, “Effectiveness of Church Approach to Preventing Child Abuse,” which contained these statements:
The Church has long had a highly effective approach for preventing and responding to abuse. In fact, no religious organization has done more. Although no one system is perfect and no single program will work with every organization, the Church’s approach is the gold standard.
I take issue with those statements.
First, aside from the deplorable lack of good taste shown by the LDS Church, in effect, ringing its own bell, the first thought that comes to mind is to ask what system of measurement or assessment did the LDS Church use in determining that its approach is the gold standard. Because if the system consists of comparing the LDS Church to the reports in the news media about other churches and religious organizations, then that system is completely flawed.
Second, as someone who represents other churches and religious organizations, as someone who has undergone the LDS Church’s “abuse prevention/response training,” as someone who has comforted women who are concerned about the potential for their children to be subjected to abuse or other inappropriate behavior during worthiness interviews, and as someone who has advocated for change in the way worthiness interviews are handled, I take issue with the bold, unsubstantiated assertion that “no religious organization has done more” to prevent and respond to abuse.
Churches and religious organizations that are serious about preventing and responding to child abuse require extensive background and criminal checks on anyone who will be working with children, whether that person is an employee or volunteer. Such uniform background and criminal checks are not done by the LDS Church.
Churches and religious organizations that are serious about preventing and responding to child abuse make sure that their “abuse prevention/response training” is consistent with the laws of the local jurisdiction, particularly laws concerning mandated reporting to civil and criminal authorities. The abuse training done by the LDS Church essentially teaches people that their duty to report begins and ends with the Bishop or Branch President.
Churches and religious organizations that are serious about preventing and responding to child abuse recognize that it is unwise and inappropriate for a church leader to interview children and young teens, ALONE, in a room with a closed door and no window, and ask them personal questions to determine their worthiness. Despite the fact that this practice has been and continues to be questioned, the LDS Church persists in following it, even after it has been brought to the attention of the LDS Church that some local leaders delve into questions way beyond the confines of the prescribed script.
Churches and religious organizations that are serious about preventing and responding to child abuse recognize that local church leaders, who typically have little or no training or experience in counseling, are not equipped to receive or act upon reports of abuse. The LDS Church’s reliance on its help line does not fully address this situation, particularly since the help line is not available to all local leaders who serve outside of the United States.
Finally, churches and religious organizations that are serious about preventing and responding to child abuse recognize that the need to protect the child outweighs and supersedes any concerns about the abuser. Based on the actions portrayed in the video that is part of the LDS Church’s “abuse prevention/response training,” too much concern is placed on the redemption of the abuser.
So, I do not share the LDS Church’s glowing reviews about the effectiveness of its approach to preventing and responding to abuse. I urge the LDS Church to stop thinking it is at the head of the class and to realize that it is dire need of some more lessons in this area. One such lesson is that the universe of people discussing and making decisions about how to prevent and respond to child abuse needs to include other people besides 60+ years old, heterosexual, white males.
Apparently, this statement has been added to the news release from yesterday:
“The following article was published in 2010. Some bloggers have written that the Church ‘re-released’ this article on February 1, 2016. The article was not intended to be re-released. Because of a technical error on the website, some past articles have been showing up with the current date. Because of that issue, some understandably saw this as a current release from the Church.”
Blaming the release or re-release on a technical error does not address the underlying issues. The LDS Church needs to reevaluate its approach to preventing and responding to child abuse and it needs to include other people in that process besides 60+ years old, heterosexual, white males.