Zack Kopplin at the Daily Beast has been looking at several job application forms for churches, and one type of question pops up time and time again: Were you molested as a child?
Your initial response might be “None of your damn business.” But you might also ask, “Why does this matter?”
Kopplin traces it back to a book called Reducing the Risk of Child Sexual Abuse in Your Church written by Richard Hammar, Senior Editor of Christianity Today’s Church Law and Tax Review. Hammar cited a 1991 case in which the Alaska Supreme Court found that “a church was responsible for the molestation of a young child because it failed to ask the molester (a nursery worker) whether or not she had been molested as a child.”
By 1998, Hammar’s questionnaire was included in sample volunteer application forms (PDF) made by Lifeway Christian Stores, a major Baptist bookstore chain. That year, Lifeway’s representative for its Bible studies division told the Baptist Press: “All people who have been abused do not become child abusers, but almost all child abusers have been abused themselves.”
Of course, actual studies haven’t found this to be true: People who were sexually abused as children do not have a greater tendency to become abusers themselves. Even the researchers whose work was cited by the Alaska Supreme Court said their paper wasn’t relevant to clergy abuse.
So why are churches asking this question?
It seems to be because they’re relying on a faulty interpretation of science.
Wouldn’t be the first time.
You should read Kopplin’s full piece here.