A Sunday School Story (Complete, Of Course, With Predators)

Hi Readers — This seemed like the perfect companion piece to the post below this one, about our intense, almost obsessive focus on predators. Gosh, remember when “predator” was most commonly used to describe, like, a mountain lion or great horned owl? Those were the days!– L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: We belong to a very small Methodist church, about 100 people attend every week. Our Sunday School classes are small, maybe 5 to 7 kids in each. The conference came out with a Safe Sanctuary policy to help us address issues of child safety. Now all of our teachers have to have background checks, their doors have to be open or they need to have multiple teachers in the room. All of a sudden there are “dangers” lurking where there had never been any before.

This is how we perpetuate the fear that something inappropriate will happen. Nobody in our Sunday school classes changed. Same kids, same teachers. But now there’s an added level of caution.

83 Responses

  1. That’s not “caution”. That’s fear. An added level of FEAR. Who are they trying to kid. Probably themselves. lol

  2. I went to a local presbyterian church a few times. Before I dropped my son off at the nursery, I was given a pamphlet. Included was information to reassure me that:
    1) EVERY person working in the nursery had been background checked AND had taken a class to avoid sexual abuse.
    2) Only “adult, female, paid employees” were allowed to change diapers and ONLY with another adult in the room.

    It’s insanity. I know the church has to do it b/c of insurance, but I spoke to friends and they all said “better safe than sorry” and “how reassured” they were.

    What I want to know is: What do you learn in a class to prevent sexual abuse? I mean, everyone KNOWS not to sexually abuse kids, right? So really we’re just training people not to hug kids or kiss booboos or something? I just don’t believe that most sexual predators are just one good Saturday training session away from having a AHA! moment “Oh! You’re NOT supposed to diddle children. Well, that changes everything.”.

  3. Unfortunately, one of the reasons for these kinds of requirements isn’t at all about people fearing predators; it’s about insurance. Insurance companies now require many of these measures (yes; churches have to buy liability insurance too). And it’s not because they think there are predators in your church. It’s because on the off-chance that there is, they don’t want to have to pay out a huge claim that could have been prevented if precautions were taken. And I don’t think it’s the insurance company being greedy. A single claim of this sort would most likely cost the insurance company many many times the amount of premium they collected from one church; even just in the defense costs.
    I’m not defending it; I agree that it’s sad that that is the direction society has headed. I just think that sometimes there is more to it than what meets the eye.

  4. ps. I completely agree with this, ” I just don’t believe that most sexual predators are just one good Saturday training session away from having a AHA! moment ‘Oh! You’re NOT supposed to diddle children. Well, that changes everything.'”

  5. To be honest, I can see the point of having the doors open (or at least the top half) or having more than one adult in the room, when dealing with kids who are too young to tell anyone what has happened. It isn’t so much about sexual abuse as just general ability to make good choices. For example, being a little rough with someone else’s child to gain compliance, or requiring something unreasonable for their age. Or even cases where some of the children are being obnoxious to others, without a wise teacher to get the situation under control. It just seems like a sense of openness would be that much more incentive to step back and not act out of frustration. And if a volunteer did think it appropriate to, for example, spank or yell at someone else’s tot, then at least the organization would know about it and nip the problem in the bud. Finally, in case of an emergency, you wouldn’t want the lone teacher to leave a roomful of little kids to call for help.

    The above assumes that the Sunday School teachers are untrained volunteers, which are likely to include some folks with limited childcare experience / skills.

    But for older kids, most of that is irrelevant. If they are taught to speak up for themselves when things don’t feel right, they don’t need minute-by-minute protection.

  6. This made me laugh! I teach summer sunday school at our small Methodist church. Since this is the 1st summer we have had it, most parents forget and no one shows up. Every week it has been just my kids or just my kids and ONE other child, and I STILL have to have another “approved” adult in there with me!

  7. I totally agree that it’s appalling that anyone would feel the need to tell you that your kid’s diaper won’t be changed by certain categories of people. Ugh! I feel like someone should apologize to all men for this type of stuff.

  8. Anyhoo, I’m glad I now understand why they need two or more teachers to handle my two kids (the only ones who have been showing up for Sunday School this month). Last week there were three women. I know my kids can be a bit lively at times, but three on two? LOL!

    Ah, memories. 30 years ago (when I was a teen), there was a 5th grade SS class where the kids were so awful, they couldn’t keep a teacher. So they asked me and 2 of my siblings to do it. They said they wanted us to “team” because the kids were so out of control (not really, but rude, yes). All I remember about that was how they cracked up laughing every time my Aspie brother would try to get them in line. “Please . . . Refrain.” LOLOLOLOL! Oh, I’m going to pay for that in the afterlife . . . .

  9. Thats nothing, When I offered to teach sunday school at my church i had to take a two session (4 hours each) class, get a criminal record check , wait 6 months so they could get to know me better, prove that i knew “proper diapering procedure” and carry a radio connected to the ones we give the parents.

  10. It is an insurance thing our church same reason they wouldn’t let us use the room for indoor play dates in the winter even though we said we would sign waivers.

  11. Wow that last comment was a total brain fart. LOL

  12. Sadly, these measures may be in place to protect the adults from false accusations or inappropriate speculation. It’s really too bad. I guess it is the same premise that dictates that my husband, who coaches my middle school daughter’s basketball team, always with another coach – always in public, has to also have a background check, etc.

  13. Given that it’s a church, not only understand the reasons, I applaud them. The Pew Institute estimates that 95% of dioceses have molestation problems, and the Catholics are not exactly alone with this despite having all the publicity. I for one would not leave my son alone with anyone involved with the clergy.

    Beyond this, the idea of teaching a kid that they were born with sin and must obey the many contradictory and barbaric laws of a book that would make the brothers Grimm weep with envy is abuse, pure and simple.

    Yes, I said it: Religion is child abuse, period.

  14. i would support these practices. i’m totally on board with free-range, but a group of small children without their parents is, unfortunately, where child abusers tend to gravitate (fact, not fear. this is far different than thinking sunday school teachers are probably child molesters). i went to a small church that did hire a nursery worker who tragically abused some children. i think background checks, along with open doors and multiple teachers are smart, not overly invasive precautions. (heck, having multiple workers can save your sanity, if anything. i was a sunday school teacher and often doubled up with other teachers).

    the fact that the teachers and kids hadn’t changed is irrelevant–it’s important to establish a policy for when new people come on board.

    i have worked with kids all my life and have gotten my background checked literally a dozen times for various jobs and internships. it doesn’t bother me because i understand its importance.

  15. Well, if all religion is child abuse, then child abuse ain’t no big deal.

    This is like people saying that eating meat is equivalent to the Holocaust. Such asinine parallels of non-equivalent things has the effect of severely belittling evil.

    Sunday school teachers, by the way, are almost never clergy.

    This is all basic CYA stuff, and it’s all part of churches unfortunately becoming businesses rather than communities. All these measures are not necessary to reassure me. What would be reassuring would be to know that, in the event a child molester is discovered, the church believed not that he should be reassigned, but that, to quote Christ, “it were better for him that a millstone be cast about his kneck and he be thrown into the midst of the sea.” As long as that’s the line the church takes toward child molesters, and not cover-up and shuffle, I’m reassured.

  16. There have been enough cases of sexual abuse in church settings that these kinds of policies have become very common. I support the education/open door/always two volunteers guidelines: they help everyone understand boundaries and possible dangers. In the minority of cases where a predator may be trolling, these policies signal “Hey we ARE paying attention!” However, I’m not sure the background checks on each and every volunteer are worth the time, effort and money given how disfunctional the sex offender registry is. I’d say do background checks on staff, educate the congregation about the issue in a sane, non-hysterical way, and have some simple, common sense safety guidelines in place. Unfortunately, insurance companies usually won’t let it rest with that.

  17. And Anthony–I’ve been an ordained clergywomen for twenty years. Guess you’d better come take my two young chilren away from me . . .

  18. A building is only as strong as its foundation. The best buildin built on a bad foundation is weak. Case in point; Many buildings in Venice are at risk because their foundations are rotting out from under them, because Venice is a series of artifical islands built on wod piles that are slowly rotting away. Once they go, unless they are replaced, there go the buildings.

    I think this logic is pretty much beyond question, so let’s apply it to the matter at hand.

    The “Big 3” religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are called “Abrahamic” because they were supposedly founded by Abraham. This is also beyond dispute.

    This Abraham was “ordered by God” to kill his child AND WAS ABOUT TO CARRY IT OUT. This is in Genesis 22 and therefore cannot be disputed.

    Therefore, the entire foundation of the “JCI” religions is built on chid abuse. There is absolutely no way to get around this.

    this of course bears no comparison whatsoever to eating meat (something many species, including humans, evolved to do over millions of years and is part of the natural order of things) and any attempt to conflate the two is just plain sad.

    In 2003, a woman named Deanna Laney pulled an Abraham when she killed her two children, supposedly by God’s command. Society locked her away in a looney bin because we recognize her actions as bats***t crazy. Meanwhile, many of those people flock to buildings every week to worship the god who told the Founding Father of their sects/cults/etc. to do the same thing, all in the shadow of one of the cruellest torture devices ever invented, the cross.

    While we do all this, we teach our children that they are born guilty of sin and headed for eternal torment because a woman ate an apple. The children must live by the laws of the cult that traces its roots back to the would-be child murderer if they wish to avoid this eternal damnation.

    How, precisely, is this not child abuse?

  19. Karen, if I had any say in the matter, your children would have been taken a long time ago.

  20. http://coachanthony.com/

    Great coaching there Anthony.

  21. Sherri’s right, the real reason for the two or more adults policy is not to protect the children, it is to protect the adults. As a man who works with young children, I’m happy we have this policy.

    I also don’t have a problem with background checks. I’ve gone through that dozens of times since I was a teenager. It’s no big deal. It’s just a way to make sure you really aren’t hiring a bad guy.

    That said, the diaper changing being done only by women is offensive. Of course, at our school I make it clear I don’t change diapers, but that’s because I don’t WANT to change them!

  22. Karen, you can try to discredit me and attack my livelihood all you want, but you will never escape the fact that no one has ever died for my beliefs, nor would I ever advocate harming anyone for their beliefs–a claim that your religion can’t ever hope to make truthfully.

    You can paste my web site anywhere you want and say anything you like about me to anyone you like, but none of that will detract in the slightest from the fact that I believe that my son was born infinitely worthy of every blessing that comes to him in this lifetime, built exactly as nature (whether created or not) intended, endowed with a brain and the corresponding mandate to use it to its fullest, and encumbered by limitations that evolved (however intelligently or not).

    Nothing in your books or your beliefs can ever touch the fact my son is not guilty of anyone else’s crimes or sins and that he does not deserve the kind of abuse your beliefs entail on their face, beliefs that are written down for all the world to see in your “holy” book.

    My son was born just right the first time and is far too good for anything your belief system has to offer.

    In short, I think far more highly of my son that your beliefs will ever allow you think about your own children.

    Period.

  23. Karen, it may also interest you to know that my stance against religion has nothing whatsoever to do with my thoughts about God… because the two are entirely separate concepts. There are plenty of spiritual traditions that require no dogma/institutions/etc. and plenty of examples of godless religions (North Korea comes to mind).

  24. @Anthony – I agree with you that child abusers sometimes use their religion to justify child abuse. That said, I do not agree that a literal reading of the bible makes any sense. Many religious people who practice any of the JCI (as you call them) religions would agree with me on that.

    As for the JCI religions being built on the foundation of a literal interpretation of the bible, I disagree entirely. Current religious thinking and practice has evolved from prior religious thinking and practice. Some have evolved in very similar ways, some have changed radically. Some practitioners try to hew as closely as they can to what they think their forefathers practiced.

    What that all means is that if you have a beef with a specific religion or practice, state that beef. That could be the start of an interesting, vibrant discussion. Calling all practioners of religion child abusers (yes I know that’s not exactly what you said) is just calling names.

    For the record, I am a practicing Unitarian Universalist. Ours is a faith the welcomes all, and maintains the dignity of all. Our religion evolved from more liberal Christian sects to the point where we are not considered Christian in the US (but are in Europe – go figure). I would doubt that anyone could look at our practices and call them abusive in any way.

    Finally, many people would say that failing to nurture your child’s spiritual self is child abuse, and

  25. Anthiny – I was writing that last comment before I saw your most recent comment.

    I still think you’re wrong about religion = child abuse, but I see that your stance is more nuanced than I thought.

  26. @Brian, we are going off topic but I would LOVE to continue this discussion. Feel free to look me up on Facebook or email me at anthony@coachanthony.com.

    In fact, that goes for anyone who wants to have this discussion, even Karen.

    If I recall correctly, the Unitarian motto is “where all your answers are questioned.” I can’t fault that–and it’s not for lack of trying!🙂

  27. @Anthony – I keep hitting the submit button too quickly. After reading the exchange between you and Karen, I gotta say: “dude, chill.”

    How would you expect someone to react when you state that you would have them stripped of their parental rights when you know nothing about them other than the fact that they are an ordained member of the clergy?

    If everyone who practiced religion should have their right to parent terminated, then most children would be raised by the state. Then we would be living in something like North Korea.

  28. But I do have one question for anyone trying to play the “literal vs. metaphorical” card:

    Are you circumsised (if male)?

    Is your child/husband/sibling/etc. circumcized? (if female)

    If so, have they been literally or figuratively mutilated? How many of them had this done voluntarily?

    And say what you will about the hygiene, etc. of circumcision, you cannot escape the fact that this practice traces its roots to Hebrew religious laws.

    Brian, of course I expect a strong reaction. I also know that the goddies have run roughshod over this planet for the last 2,000 years and, like all bullies everywhere, start bleating the moment someone stands up to them. I speak from experience: NEVER have I had a religious person argue the substance… they ALWAYS go right to the personal.

    I don’t know Karen personally, nor do I need to. All I know she subscribes to a certain set of beliefs whose foundation is built on child abuse (and abuse of women, too!) and those beliefs entail teaching children some pretty awful things about themselves and everyone around them.

    I completely agree that the logistics of removing children from religious families are daunting to the point of utter impracticality. But that does not stop me from thinking that religious people have no business raising children at all.

    Again: I said RELIGIOUS. I did NOT say SPIRITUAL.

  29. I don’t necessarily have a problem with background checks for Sunday School teachers or child care workers. At our church, a very liberal, progressive Presbyterian church, we have a non-member who takes care of the babies and a member who teaches Sunday School. We’ve done background checks on both and I don’t think it suggests to either of them or to parents that they are potential predators. I think it is just due diligence, like checking references. We have 2 because it’s not possible for one person to take care of babies and teach Sunday School to 4-10 year olds. It also leaves someone to stay with a child who may not want to go to Children’s Moment.

    Related to the child endangerment issues, our new pastor was trying to get a situation where parents had to sign out their kids, which we refused to implement. There are usually only about 4-5 kids on Sunday morning and if one parent comes to get a child, they all want to come (we have great refreshments after church). To me (and to others) insisting that only a parent can sign out their child went against the family/village atmosphere we have going for us.

    Also related, but not to church – my son’s school requires me to get a background check and submit it (which is hilarious to consider) if I want to chaperone a field trip. Fortunately they don’t check and I’ve gone on my share of field trips. Last year, on the form that asks if you have one on file with the school, I just clicked yes.

  30. And say what you will about the hygiene, etc. of circumcision, you cannot escape the fact that this practice traces its roots to Hebrew religious laws.

    Actually, infant circumcision in the US has more to do with Victorian fears of masturbation than with anything Jewish.

  31. Correct. And the Victorian fears about masturbation come from where? Which all traces its ancestry back to whom?

  32. I totally oppose this. For one it’s totally inconsistent. It invalidates all of their teachings. To wit: among other things, the Christian doctrine is about trusting others, and lending a hand to those in need–and, most of all, presuming the BEST in people until proven otherwise.

    I hear this in sermons all the time. I’ve heard it said that it’s WRONG for people to use fear as an excuse to not help others, even though one should apply common sense.

    Well, if you believe it, PRACTICE it. Don’t preach it, then fail to practice it in your building.

    As for insurance requirements–who runs your building, the principles of God, or the insurance company? Choose your God, and honor it. I’m not suggesting flaunting the law per se, but at the same time–if your God is the insurance company, you’re not a church, you’re an everyday company of the secular world. Like that one person said, it’s as if they’re not churches anymore so much as they are businesses. Totally senseless.

  33. – Matthew 5:17
    – Matthew 10:21
    – Matthew 11:20
    – Revelations 19:13-15
    – Revelations 19:20-21
    – Mark 4:11-12
    – Matthew 15:4-7
    – Mark 7:9

    I could go on and on, and on, and on but I’ll just stop here: What, precisely, in just these few passages says the slightest thing about love and goodness to you?

  34. @ anthony – They say far more about goodness, light and love than you do in this thread — in ANY of your posts. Knock it off, dude. You’re being an ass.

  35. Turn a discussion about fear of predators to a religious discussion….only on the internet!

  36. Michelle, my point is that churches are prime predator habitats.

    Donna, I stand behind my belief that children in churches need all the protection they can get and i have well over 2,000 years of history on my side. I love my child too much, trust his inherent goodness and intelligence too much, and respect his light far too much to be bad enough to subject him to that kind of abuse. Yes m words are strong, but then again so is tying someone to a stake and burning them. In fact, my words are positively mild by comparison.

  37. @ Anthony – As someone who also dislikes religion of any form, I gotta agree with the other Donna here. You’re being an ass. This is not a forum for your anti-religious beliefs and I find the idea that Karen, or anyone else’s children, should be taken away simply because they subscribe to a particular religion repugnant.

  38. I’m going to have to agree and disagree with this. My husband is a pastor and a few years ago our church began doing background checks and put windows in all the doors in the church. They also made a rule that no one could serve in any capacity in the church unless they had been there 6 months. While I am totally free-range and hate the idea of not trusting others I can say this is more to protect the church than anything. We have never had any issues at our church but it is true that molesters flock to places where they can get quick access to children. Molesters tend to be very friendly and always the person you suspect the least, they’re the person everyone liked and the parents trust them. By having windows in all the doors and having 2 adults at a time with kids it makes it very difficult for anything to happen. The kids are safe, the church is protected insurance wise because they’ve done all they can and it is less stress/worry on the part of the clergy. It is sad that churches have to protect themselves in this way, but churches are very vulnerable to sickos because of what other people have posted. Churches are welcoming and trusting and these people while they are extremely small in number know that and are very good at fitting in at churches, when in reality they are only there to cause harm.

  39. I absolutely have to disagree with Nanci’s statements that:

    “It is sad that churches have to protect themselves in this way…”

    “… these people, while they are extremely small in number…”

    CURRENT US POPULATION: 307,006,550 (Google)

    # OF SEX OFFENDERS: 374,270 (National Alert Registry)

    # OF SEX OFFENDERS: 550,000 (Family Watchdog)

    INCIDENCE OF SEX OFFENDERS:

    – 1 out of every 891 people (NAR)
    – 1 out of every 558 people (FW)

    According to the John Jay Report (commissioned by the Catholics):

    – Complaints were lodged against 4,392 out of 109,694 priests (1 out of every 25)

    Assuming that all of these are valid reports, that woudl make clergy 22 TIMES MORE LIKELY (FW) or 35 TIMES MORE LIKELY (NAR) to be offenders. But of course not all of these reports are valid.

    According to this report, investigations were substantiated against 1,872 priests, or 1 in 58. This does not include cases not invstigated because of the priest’s death or other factors. In other words, this represents the best-case scenario.

    Thus, we can conclude that a priest is between 9 and 15 MORE likely to be an offender than your basic person on the street.

    This report was commissioned by the Catholics and thus we can assume that it does its level best to put a positive spin on the situation by defining narrow criteria that could, say, allow them to reduce the numbers.

    Also, in fairness, I don’t think this report covers non-Catholic clergy… but the numbers there are staggering as well. Check out http://www.sarabite.info/stats.html.

    The conclusion is inescapable: Children are in FAR more danger at church than they are on the street, and this is only taking molstation into account with publicly available numbers that don’t say anything at all about the teachings themselves or the validity of the underlying belief system.

    In short, the molestation stats are reason enough to keep your kids the hell away from church.

    Throw in all of the other evil stuff that goes on in those charnel houses and their incredibly deleterious emotinal effects and I rest my case: Church is child abuse.

    If I’m ass for knowing the numbers and protecting my child from real dangers, then I wear that label with pride.

  40. Sorry for the repeat post but I need to put these numbers into context:

    If Airline A was known to be 9 times as likely to lose your luggage as Airline B, would you fly Airline A?

    If Car A was known to be 9 times more likely to break down than Car B, would you buy Car A?

    If you would not do this to your luggage or commute, then why do it to your child?

    I rest my case.

  41. Anthony, I think I speak for everyone here when I say: PLEASE GO THE FUCK AWAY, YOU MISERABLE TROLL.

  42. Anthony, the fact that you disagree with me is verification that I’m right🙂

  43. Getting back to our original subject, one effect of these insurance-driven policies is to disqualify volunteers based on trivia. Typically, for example, any drug-related conviction, no matter how minor or how long ago, is a lifetime disqualification. I read a story about a football coach who was barred from coaching his son’s team because 20 years ago when he was in college he got busted for pot possession (the penalty was a $50 fine).

    Then there’s also the matter of requiring volunteers to pay, perhaps multiple times, for the cost of background checks. Realistically, that cost shouldn’t fall on the adults who volunteer; it should be shared by everyone who benefits from the volunteers’ efforts (e.g. if somebody needs a $60 background check to teach an SS class of 10 kids including her own, the other 9 parents should each pitch in $6.66 (hehe) and she shouldn’t have to spend any of her own money). This should not be based on the volunteer’s financial circumstances; it’s really a matter of not freeloading.

  44. At our church the church foots the bill for the background check. All the volunteer needs to do is sign a paper to agree to the check.

  45. As a new male teacher, my mentor warned me to talk to lone female students only with the door open, the desk between us, or other teachers in the room. However, this wasn’t to protect the students from predators, it was to protect me from fraudulent claims of me being a predator. The total opposite, but either way a sad commentary.

  46. Anthony you are a total troll🙂 and you just said what I’ve thought for years but never had the nerve to say outright.

    That said, I’m glad we don’t have those practices here. It would kill the social events that have always revolved around the school and kindergarten scene. To say nothing of parent transportation to events etc. Your schools must be very isolated from their communities which can’t be any sort of positive for the kids.

    As far as toilets go – I was never worried about that and they have used them by themselves since kindy. I was always far more worried about whether they were clean and did you remember to wash your hands!

    viv in nz

  47. I have attended church since I was 5 and this issue has nothing to do with all the good things I approeciate about my religion and my church. I am aware of three instances when molestation issues have occurred within the congretations I attended and in all three cases they occurred “off campus” and not during normal Sunday school, church and social activities. The child/teen knew the adult and families on both sides of the incidents had a social relationship outside of church.

    I have to say I new very little about child molestation until our church insitituted a program called Protection of Minors after one of the incidents. As a free-range parent, I have found the training interesting and informative. The training has helped me think about what to tell my children (7 and10) in terms of watching out for each other when I send them off by themselves to do whatever.

    My husband and and I just went through our 5-year renewal and background check. This time we watched a video produced by the another denomination in which they interviewed molesters who explained how they got kids interested in them. They also interviewed kids who described the stiuation they were in when they were molested. It was eye opening. But again, it doesn’t have me running scared, it’s just educated me more so I can help my kids learn to discern good situations from ones they need to leave. It also gave me ideas on how to talk about dating and understanding limits on sex at a young age.

    Usually there’s enough going on at church that having more than one adult around is not an issue. Like so many things, it only takes a few people to ruin it for everyone – and this is certainly one of those circumstances. But the practicality of the matter can be annoying and difficult and expensive. I look forward to returning to a day where I can give someone a kind hug and not be considered a molester. But in the meantime…I will keep free-ranging and telling others why I do it.

  48. Hi Lenore,

    Delores Umbridge strikes a holy house! Where is this word coming to?

  49. *Where is this world coming to?

    Sorry for the typo!

  50. I am still trying to get my head around Kimberly’s post near the top – the pamphlet that assured parents that only females would change diapers.

    Is a urine-soaked and/or poop-filled diaper, and genitalia covered with same, that enticing to ALL men that we are “reassured” and “safe” when men aren’t allowed to change said diaper?

    Just. don’t. get it.

  51. I can’t get outraged at this. Nothing was really functionally different for the kids. Background checks are not a big deal (and there not so terribly effective either, though) and keeping the door open is even considered pedagogically supportive in some arenas.

    I think it’s good to notice these things, be conscious, question…but I’m saving my energy for something else.

  52. Background checks are not a big deal (and there not so terribly effective either, though) and keeping the door open is even considered pedagogically supportive in some arenas.

    I guess background checks are a big deal to me for three reasons:
    1) They foster a culture of fear and a lack of trust.
    2) They are an added level of trouble for the volunteer.
    3) (and mainly this) They have the potential to be embarrassing or disqualifying for those respectable, trustworthy members of the community who may have an embarrassing past (drug charge or even a serious crime in their youth).

  53. @kimberly
    -for the volunteer it takes maybe 3 minutes
    -mostly schools/churches look at sex charges and don’t worry about charges in the deep past or that are irrelevant
    -there are a lot of things that foster fear, and those I will rage against—but not this one.

    that’s all

  54. May I chime in…

    I’m a practicing Catholic. In fact sadly my own parish was affected by the child-sex abuse scandal here in the Boston area. I’m rather hurt when the scandal is used to justify anything one may disagree about my faith.

    For the sake of understanding, you may disagree with the Church, like masturbation. We’re all sexual beings, but sexuality ultimately is rooted in procreation. That’s isn’t something the Church just made up or barbaric

    When an individual masturbates for instance, while in deed self serving slowly over time he grows to think sex is about him or herself. Then sometime down the road when you actually do fall in love with someone you begin to realize that masturbation takes away rather then brings. Potentially it can be a bad habit you can’t break.

    On a general more philosophical level acts such as masturbation being no meaning or purpose to anyone, including oneself. You’re just in a room diddling with yourself, and honestly that a little pathetic when you think about it.

    And yes I’ve been certified as a volunteer in my parish, I would agree eye opening. We can protect children without the fear mongering.

  55. Renee, you really need to read a few science books.

  56. I know this seems like a crazy preventative measure, and as a member of the United Methodist Church who worked in the nursery and with kids, I’ve had to agree to a background check. Still, I am proud that my church is taking measures to be proactive about child molestation in a church setting. It happens, and I think this is a much better solution than pretending it DOESN’T happen, i.e., the Catholic Church.

  57. Sam….unless you are Samantha, it sounds like you might be a guy? Does your church allow you to change diapers when you work in the nursery?

  58. In a church I went to, not only did there have to be two adults in the room, *but they could not be spouses*! All of a sudden, we had toddler rooms which used to be staffed by husband/wife pairs, and they were no longer allowed to do so without another adult in the room! How insane! For a small church, all-of-a-sudden we have to find extra people to watch our backs!

  59. @AndreaS – The church may only care about sex charges but you can’t ask for a criminal background check that JUST shows sex charges. There are going to be many good volunteers who have a lot to offer who simply will not volunteer because they have something in their past that they don’t want other people knowing about. While the minister, or whoever is looking at the criminal history, couldn’t care less about some old drug charge, the person who wants to volunteer may care very deeply that the minister not know about the charge for fear that others in the congregation will look at him differently.

  60. “We have never had any issues at our church but it is true that molesters flock to places where they can get quick access to children. Molesters tend to be very friendly and always the person you suspect the least, they’re the person everyone liked and the parents trust them.”

    As someone who works with child molesters, this is just not true. This is the media painting of child molesters. Just like the general population, our child molesters run the gambit between friendly and well-liked to totally creepy. There are many times that we get molestation cases where a number of witnesses say about the client “we knew there was something weird about him we just couldn’t put our finger on it.”

  61. Oh and since 90% of child molestations happen within families, nobody is “flocking to places where they can get quick access to children.” In fact, since sex takes more than a second, they are not looking for quick access, they are looking for extended access. A molester is not going to be happy with simply touching genitals for a second while changing a diaper anymore than a person with a normal sex drive would be content with simply briefly touching genitals – and a room full of kids is NOT going to give you time for anything else. The family is the most common hunting ground because that is where you can get the extended one-on-one time with a child needed.

  62. What appalls me the most is Kimberly’s comment near the top, that only women in the church were allowed to change diapers. I’ve been so annoyed when I go out that the changing tables are almost only available in the women’s bathrooms. I think that is incredibly sexist. Men should have to change diapers too and have the freedom to go out alone with kids and know that there will be public facilities to help in diaper changing. This belief that only women should change diapers is ridiculous and sexist and makes me so mad.

    I had to have background checks as well in churches and schools. What irks me is that I have to do it repeatedly even for the same organization within the same school year. A background check is no guarantee that anything would be done to not include a person if the report came up negative. I volunteered at a church that allowed an accused drug dealer and batterer to work there with the kids.

  63. Donna: Additionally, even if the church doesn’t care about an ancient drug conviction or the like, their insurance company probably does. Given the hemorrhagic payouts they had to make on behalf of the archdioceses, they’re going to take a better-safe-than-sorry attitude.

  64. Summer camps are like churches in that sometimes people might want to work with kids for the wrong reasons. I have had all our staff go through multiple years of training with a company.

    The reason for this is simple. We want to provide a safe environment for kids. Only 3% of sexual predators have some sort of criminal background. Yes, roughly 90% of instances of sexual abuse are done by either a friend of the family, or someone in the family. That leaves the other 10% for those “stranger danger” types.

    I’m glad there are churches providing the extra precautions. It’s good to know they are paying attention.

  65. oops. I don’t think my link worked. Let me try again. We did our training training through this organization.

  66. Kevin, do you think these extra precautions are good when you are not allowed to change a diaper because it might excite you?

  67. Unfortunately in many ways a case of the response that has been created by real predators and because many people who were abused as children are only coming forward 20 – 40 years later, there seems to be a regular new item about predators. Line of sight is quite a good response for it also begins to move the whole process of care of children to open community which I think is particularly desirable for a variety of positive outcomes for child and social development. Changing diapers, well, needs a little training, and then, can be done in a private but multi-person venue, so people get comfortable with regular traffic from other carers. Keeping children in sight at all times keeps them safe from drowning, falling off cliffs, being run over by cars, and, yes, by the neigbourhood slaver (tongue in cheek on last).

  68. My daughter’s too young for Sunday school, but she does spend time in the church day care during services. Funny thing is, I’ve been nervous about it, because the caretakers are one or two girls from the church, one of whom is only nine. I’ve been wishing they had a grown-up there instead. I guess I should be glad my girl’s being watched by someone too young to be a pedophile!

  69. I’m kind of smiling at the idea that a church with a weekly attendance of 100 is considered “small”, but I guess that is beside the point.

    I don’t have a problem with churches and other institutions that serve children becoming more mindful about child abuse. Child serving institutions and families are where abusers generally find their victims and I think it is an area that, back in “the good old days” that never existed, was ignored to the detriment of many people.

    However, the problem I have with the policies the church is implementing is that they are detrimental to kids in other ways and I don’t see them as particularly effective in stopping abuse. The “don’t be alone in private with a kid” focus of the rules is particularly damaging because it stops good, strong, emotionally supportive relationships being built up between kids and adults.

    Having a culture that encourages people to treat rooms as open access seems good, but insisting on two adults or an open door seems like the sort of thing that could really get in the way of a natural approach to relationships.

    One of the things that many “anti child-abuse” classes contain that I think is good, is how to identify kids who may be being abused. That sort of training is good for anyone involved in the emotional and physical care of young people. They also frequently cover emotional abuse as well as physical and sexual. Kids are more likely to suffer from emotional abuse than sexual abuse and I think the information can be eye-opening to people who have only really been exposed to child abuse ideas through the press.

    But for a voluntary organization like a church, I would think it would be more effective to focus on developing a culture that takes children’s complaints as seriously as other people’s; encourages children to believe they have a right to bodily and emotional autonomy, to understand good touch/bad touch and speak out when they are uncomfortable, to develop multiple friendships, and to confide in more than one person.

    But that sort of thing isn’t check box-able so you couldn’t really sign off on it on an insurance form the way you can a paper policy.

  70. I had to attend an abuse-prevention training session before I could volunteer as a Sunday school teacher in my urban, decidedly liberal mainline church.

    It was actually quite helpful, and a lot of the policies make a great deal of sense. Our classrooms have glass doors, but are a staircase away from the sanctuary. Having two adults around is a really good idea (for both safety and crowd control). Even the littlest kids go to the bathroom in pairs, without an adult, which is pretty free-range given the number of transients who show up for services.

    No background checks, male and female teachers (mostly parents, though). We were also strongly encouraged to go to the clergy or the head of the Sunday School with any concerns about a kid or a teacher. No liability waivers for using the playground equipment.

    We do have a bonded babysitting service for the nursery, which is a great (albeit expensive) thing. We’re a a small church, and getting the appropriate number of caregivers for babies/toddlers is a real headache.

  71. Great,after years of training dads that it’s okay to change their own kid’s diapers, now we’re telling male nursery school teachers that they can’t change diapers. Talk about giving men a mixed message.

  72. I know this isn’t the point, but besides insulting men by not letting them change diapers, this also means that women are designated to do all the “dirty work.” Now, I don’t think changing a diaper is a big deal, but if I had a roomful of infants and was paired with a male teacher, that would mean I’d spend half of the time wiping butts. Not very inspiring.

  73. If there are male nursery workers in more than an insignificant fraction of churches, I’ll eat my shirt.

    That said, I think some of this is for insurance purposes, CYA, etc. I had to take this kind of class & pass criminal background check to sub at a Catholic preschool. The classes were a little over the top (as a non-Catholic I just kept thinking “Seriously?! Maybe, you know, removing accused serially abusive clergy would be a lot more effective than having a bunch of moms sit through a video?”) but the info was solid… long term effects of abuse, recognizing and reporting, etc. It’s not bad information for anyone dealing regularly with children and vital info for mandatory reporters.

  74. From years of personal experience I can tell you that I fear having the door open more than having the daycare volunteer do anything bad to the child. I cannot tell you how many times I would be downstairs with a room full of toddlers and have some man walk in off the street. Because we were a church, they expected money or a ride or food. I never begrudged them the asking but some were very hostile or not willing to wait for service to end so the appropriate people could address their needs. I was often scared due to the isolation so I think either doors closed or two adults (so one can go for help) is the least you can do.

  75. Wow. Didn’t mean to set off a firestorm. It’s my church that we’re talking about. To clarify a few points, our church (at 100 people) is small because we have a lot of elderly members who have “served their time” already and do not volunteer to teach anymore. Also, many of our members are related to each other, and have grandparents, siblings, children, all still attending. I also consider us a small church because we rarely have visitors and when we do, it’s a big deal and we all notice.
    We actually have a certified EMT as our nursery attendant. She’s paid a salary and is not a member of our church. Along with her is a volunteer mainly because if one of the kids needs to use the bathroom she can’t leave the other kids alone. Oh, the most we’ve ever had in the nursery at one time since I’ve been a member of this church was 4.
    Our sunday school class grades are combined (K through 2, 3 through 5, 6 to 8, and high school) because we don’t have enough kids for seperate classes. Out total sunday school attendance is about 20.
    I’ve read all of the comments and I’ve been able to clarify what it is I don’t like about the background checks. Lets say you have prior drug arrests. Now we have to have a committee (we do EVERYTHING by committees :)) decide if you are an appropriate teacher. Is drugs okay? Is armed robbery okay? Now we have to define who’s allowed to teach and who isn’t. As one reader said, we’re Christians. We’re all considered sinners in some way but we’re not supposed to judge, God does that. But here we are doing exactly that and that’s what I find wrong with the whole idea.
    Will some very qualified teachers decide not to even volunteer? Perhaps. What better teacher can a high schooler have than someone who’s done something wrong, realized, repented, maybe served some time in jail. Who knows who will connect to your child in a way you never could.
    Lets also take a step back. If the rules are needed to protect the adults from false accusations, where are the kids learning to do this? I certainly wouldn’t have thought of this when I was a kid. We’re not letting kids be kids, we’re making them into fearful adults at way too young an age.
    I’m not Catholic, never have been so I can’t comment on anything that goes on there,
    And Anthony, don’t tell me I’m an idiot for my beliefs and I won’t call you an idiot for yours.

  76. I used to teach in a public high school from 2000-2005, and while none of these were rules for us, they were all highly recommended as ways to protect yourself from false accusations.

  77. “If there are male nursery workers in more than an insignificant fraction of churches, I’ll eat my shirt.”

    That depends somewhat on the way the church does nursery. In some churches, nursery workers are either paid or permanent volunteers. In those cases, men are probably more unusual. In others, like every church I’ve been part of (which have all been smaller than average), families and/or individuals take turns volunteering by the week. In the latter case, It’s not unusual for husband/wife pairs or parents and older kids taking a turn all together, which can include adult and/or teen males.

  78. “If there are male nursery workers in more than an insignificant fraction of churches, I’ll eat my shirt.”

    For voluntter-based nurseries, I think it’s pretty common for kids from the youth group to volunteer to work in church nurseries – and that includes teenage boys and not just teenage girls. Most Sunday school classes in our church have two teachers, one male and one female.

  79. Not to get all Helen Lovejoy, but what about the boys. They are taught basically that all men are dirty, dirty pigs, who can’t be trusted to change a diaper. If there were some somewhat analogous situation where women were prevented from performing a normal function of adulthood, NOW would be the first one’s to worry about what message was being sent to the women of the future.

  80. Robin: Most false allegations of child sexual abuse, other than those made by teenagers, actually originate with parents rather than kids. In those circumstances, the kids don’t say they were abused until they’ve been subjected to hours of interrogation using techniques that are know to result in false allegations. Those kids aren’t lying in the way that an adult would understand it; in some cases they actually come to believe that they were abused, or, more commonly, they think it’s their responsibility to tell adults what they want to hear.

    Most of the 80s/early 90s daycare molestation witchhunts began with an accusation made by a parent who was “dual diagnosis” which is to say that they had both a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar I and a substance-abuse disorder.

    So the rules are really to protect the volunteers from parent-initiated accusatiions that some innocent thing they did was really nefarious. Still pretty sad.

  81. As a longtime Sunday school teacher, church trustee, and Board president, I see both sides of this issue. It’s not in anyone’s interest to make it difficult or unpleasant for people to volunteer. And most people who volunteer really just want to help. At the same time, we have to face the fact that there are people who will abuse the trust placed in them.

    IMO, requiring two adults in a room or an open door between rooms is a good rule. The “two adults” rule offers a lot of safety benefits: it protects volunteers from false accusations, makes it difficult for a potential abuser to do harm, and ensures that there’s back-up in case of a true emergency. Of course there’s always the possibility that a psychopathic Sunday school volunteer would take advantage of an emergency to abuse a child–there are people who would do things like that. Fortunately, I don’t think there are enough of them to make it worthwhile to have a “three-adults” rule.

    I’m more dubious about requiring background checks of volunteers, as they only ensure that you don’t approve anyone who’s been caught. And of course, they’re likely to screen out people who would be excellent volunteers. In this situation, it’s not at all clear to me that the benefits of background checks outweigh the costs, both financial and personal.

    As for the “anti-hugging rules,” don’t get me started. I gave a sideways hug to a little girl I’ve known since she was a baby recently, and as I did it, I wondered whether it was a good idea. Sad.

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