Abuse Issue Not Limited to Catholics
Churches' Concerns Prompt Stricter Rules

The Post and Courier [United States]
February 28, 2004

The sexual abuse of minors by church workers is not just a Catholic problem.

"Despite headlines focusing on the priest pedophile problem in the Roman Catholic Church, most American churches being hit with child sexual-abuse allegations are Protestant, and most of the alleged abusers are not clergy or staff, but church volunteers," according to a 2002 survey by Christian Ministry Resources, which advises churches on legal and tax issues.

Churches in every denomination are worried about child sexual abuse. For instance, many larger churches require background checks and fingerprinting before adults can volunteer for the nursery.

The trend is being driven largely by insurance companies, who are demanding stricter standards before issuing coverage against lawsuits.

Many of the mainline denominations, such as Episcopal, Lutheran and Methodist, came up with strict policies on avoiding and reporting child sexual abuse in the 1990s.

A Web site called documents allegations of 838 Protestant clergy. The largest category came from independent Bible churches.

Michael Smith, a Lutheran corporate attorney who collects the reports for the Web site, suspects Protestants and Catholics differ little in the percentage of abusive clergy, according to The Associated Press.

John Cleary, general counsel for Church Mutual Insurance, a major carrier of liability insurance for U.S. Protestant congregations, told the AP, "I don't think the Catholic Church has any greater problem than any other denomination."


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