Agency Sees 70 Church Abuse Cases Per Week

Seventy cases a week of child-abuse allegations against American churches come to the attention of the Christian Ministry Resources, a tax and legal-advice publisher serving about 75,000 congregations and 1,000 denominational agencies.
CMR's annual surveys of about 1,000 churches nationwide have sought information on sexual abuse since 1993. Surveys for the last decade have averaged 70 cases a week.
"The Catholics have gotten all the attention from the media, but this problem is even greater with the Protestant churches simply because of their far larger numbers," said James Cobble, executive director of CMR.
"I think the CMR numbers are striking, yet quite reasonable," commented Anson Shupe, an Indiana University professor and author of books on church abuse. "To me it says Protestants are less reluctant to come forward because they don't put their clergy on as high a pedestal as Catholics do with their priests."
Shupes believes the 70-cases-a-week number is likely low. In a door-to-door survey in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area in 1998, he found that 4% of 1,607 families reported sexual abuse by clergy.
The CMR statistics show most abuse is at Protestant churches, 42% of abusers are church volunteers, and 25% of perpetrators are minors accused of molesting other children at church. About 21% of allegations reported in the 2000 survey resulted in lawsuits or out-of-court settlements.
Church reforms have been largely at the behest of insurance companies, which began dropping coverage of churches without screening policies.
"What drove leaders to begin to respond to this issue was not the welfare of children. It was fear of large, costly lawsuits," said Cobble. Source: Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2002

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