Opinion: I’m Afraid Prayer in School Will Be Used to Groom My Kids for Abuse

Walter Rhein

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There is a lot of talk in the media about parental fears over children getting groomed for abuse. Oddly, one of the largest institutions responsible for repeatedly covering up child abuse is largely absent from those discussions.

An August 2018 grand jury report on clerical sex abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses gave a detailed, often graphic account of decades of criminal offenses against minors by Catholic priests. Other states have since launched their own investigations. Evidence that church superiors—bishops, archbishops, and even popes—failed to address abuses effectively has only amplified the outrage—Wietse de Boer

There are many stories of child abuse at the hands of Catholic priests. The worst part of these stories is that the church has often shown what I see as an indifferent attitude to these crimes. They seem unwilling to make the fundamental changes that would stop these abuses forever.

However, the general public seems reluctant to hold the church accountable. It’s even more frightening because some individuals want to see the church have a greater influence in public schools.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) says she is “tired” of the long-standing separation between church and state in the U.S., adding that she believes “the church is supposed to direct the government.”—Brad Dress

I think the above-referenced comment by Boebert is completely wrong. The first amendment specifically states that the government should not be directed by the church.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof—Constitutioncenter.org

This is the first sentence of the First Amendment. Clearly, the Founding Fathers thought not establishing a religion was more important even than freedom of speech or gun rights. The Founding Fathers must have clearly perceived danger in religion, and we should respect their observations.

Some studies have shown faith community abusers represent the largest percentage of all individuals who molest children.

There are studies that demonstrate that the faith community is even more vulnerable to abuse than secular environments. The Abel and Harlow study revealed that 93% of sex offenders describe themselves as “religious” and that this category of offender may be the most dangerous. Other studies have found that sexual abusers within faith communities have more victims and younger victims—Notinourchurch.com

However, despite the evidence that shows parents should be most worried about faith-based predators grooming their children, the media publishes more stories that are designed to attack the LGBTQ community.

Grooming is a very real problem in the United States. However, it’s not the LGBTQ community engaging in this behavior. Conservatives are throwing the word at the LGBTQ community even as they clear the way for the true abusers to have access to your children in public schools.

Actual grooming occurs when adults take advantage of a child's vulnerability to manipulate and coerce the child into sexual abuse. Now that meaning has been warped and corrupted to broadly smear the motives of LGBTQ people and those who oppose anti-LGBTQ legislation—MELISSA BLOCK

Again, if you study the actual evidence, it’s obvious that parents should be most afraid of faith-based abusers.

There are many anti-gay narratives perpetuated that are factually inaccurate and amount to little more than hate speech. Many people inaccurately conflate homosexuality with pedophilia.

Anti-gay activists who make that claim allege that all men who molest male children should be seen as homosexual. But research by A. Nicholas Groth, a pioneer in the field of sexual abuse of children, shows that is not so. Groth found that there are two types of child molesters: fixated and regressive. The fixated child molester — the stereotypical pedophile — cannot be considered homosexual or heterosexual because "he often finds adults of either sex repulsive" and often molests children of both sexes. Regressive child molesters are generally attracted to other adults, but may "regress" to focusing on children when confronted with stressful situations. Groth found, as Herek notes, that the majority of regressed offenders were heterosexual in their adult relationships—Evelyn Schlatter and Robert Steinback

It’s depressing to see the false narratives that make their way into the public discussion. Parents should be worried about any activity that could be seen as grooming their children for abuse. However, the actual statistics about child molesters suggest prayer should be considered one of the foremost dangers.

The problem is that the Supreme Court has recently made a decision that will make it more likely for teachers to lead students in “voluntary” prayer.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with a high school football coach who claimed the right to pray on the 50-yard line after each game, joined by those players who wanted to participate. The 6-to-3 decision was the latest example of the court's conservative supermajority requiring more accommodation for religion in public schools and less separation between church and state— NINA TOTENBERG

This decision could be leveraged by pedophiles to create intimate “voluntary” prayer groups through which your children might be groomed under the guise of religious instruction.

This kind of abuse happens all the time in the United States. Concerned parents need to speak out and resist the idea of allowing grooming through prayer to become a larger risk for our children at schools.

It's dishonest for so many people to point an accusing finger at the LGBTQ community when there's so much evidence they are not guilty of these behaviors. It's irresponsible to ignore the statistics which show the faith-based community does seem to pose a danger to the well-being of our children.

The safest solution is to not allow prayer in school just as the Founding Fathers intended.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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