It’s time to end religious freedom to rape children and conceal it from authorities

There are myriad reasons many Americans detest organized religion, and it is unclear if two of the main reasons have contributed to more Americans leaving “the church” in droves. Of course, one of the reasons is evangelical and Catholic groups claiming their “religious freedom” gives them constitutional authority to demand universal compliance to their religious edicts. Another reason is the idea that members of the Christian clergy are free to commit all manner of heinous criminal acts with impunity because they are granted salvation – because their religion’s namesake died on a stake. It is likely that the “saved by grace” reasoning is a contributing factor to both Catholic and evangelical leaders’ inclination to cover up what is probably the most monstrous sin a human being can commit – raping children.

For those who have followed the regular reports that yet another Catholic priest was revealed to be a child rapist, and then “forgiven” by the faithful and rewarded by Church officials with a new assignment, the horrors reported recently were not unexpected. The response from the “official church,” and rash of platitudes from local church leaders, also were not unexpected or new; Catholic officials probably have Vatican-approved comments prepared for these hideous “revelations.”

It is important to note that this sexual abuse (rape) by clergy is not unique to Catholic priests by any means. Evangelical clergy are regularly caught up in “sexual misconduct” scandals and just like the Vatican and local Catholic leaders, there are typically insincere, often tearful, appeals for forgiveness; often from the stage of a wealthy megachurch. A tearful mea culpa with gratitude for being saved by grace and all is well with the faithful. All the while, the sexual predators are free to return to the flock because they enjoy “salvation by cross.”

Here is a little biblical information about the reason the faithful are so forgiving of child molesters and rapists; there is no salvation for members of the clergy that sin – there just isn’t and it is not this author’s opinion. It is, in fact, written in what Christians consider god’s “immutable and infallible” word – the Christian bible.

According to the archaic rule book Catholics and evangelicals claim rules their lives:

There is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us.”

Of course sacrifice can be replaced with salvation because according to scripture, the only reason Christian are saved is because their deity “sacrificed” his son for the faithful who do not “purposely go on sinning.” In fact, the concept of sinning after learning the truth is regarded as apostasy; a major religious sin that warrants ex-communication. It is no mystery why evangelical and Catholic leaders are not defrocking and ex-communicating the child rapists, and it is precisely the same reason Republicans refuse to evict Trump from the White House or even publicly criticize him; it will damage the brand.

Regarding the revelation that for decades Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania, about 300 of them, had raped over 1,000 children, the Pope issued a sternly worded letter. But he did not suggest any penalty except for the pedophile priests to devote their lives to prayer and penance.  No doubt there are thousands of pedophiles sitting in American prisons who would welcome a harsh penalty like devoting their lives to prayer, but those non-clergy pedophiles do not enjoy religious freedom to rape children with impunity.

The most damning part of the Pennsylvania grand jury report is detailing the effort church leaders exerted to “cover-up the crimes.”  The church leaders are complicit in the crimes because their protection emboldened the pedophile priests to continue to rape and sexually abuse children for decades. The report also noted, “in great detail,” that the rapes were “widespread and systematic” with “the full knowledge and tacit approval of church leaders.”  It is worth mentioning that in every other aspect of American society, having full knowledge of a crime and not reporting it is a federal felony. According to 18 U.S. Code § 4 – Misprision of felony:

Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

There is no doubt that Catholic leaders, from the lowliest nun to the Pope, not only knew about the pedophile priests’ vile crimes, they covered them up to protect the brand. Republicans are doing the same thing in protecting Trump, but that is the subject of another opinion piece. To make matters worse, church leaders, whether the Catholics or evangelicals, are excused from following the rule of law because they enjory religious freedom to ignore the law of the land like they ignore their own bible.

It is a travesty for victims of rape-by-clergy, but in most states there is no requirement for church leaders to report crimes against children. It is true that some states have “mandatory reporting laws” for clergy, but it is also a fact that in most states “any information protected by the clergy-penitent privilege is not admissible in a court proceeding;” even if the “protected information” regards members of the clergy raping children.

Although imprisonment is not guaranteed to deter pedophiles whether they are filthy members of the clergy or just filthy street perverts, sending clergy convicted of raping children to prison would be a “come to Jesus” moment and possibly spare children a lifetime of grief and misery. It is obvious, or it should be, that the Pope issuing another “sternly-worded” letter, or penalizing pedophile priests to a life of “prayer and penance,” or the faithful “considering” withholding financial donations has not worked. However, if the Catholic priests and evangelical clergy were sent to prison for raping children, or if the Church leaders were convicted of “misprision of felony” and spent three years in a federal penitentiary, there may be a rapid reduction in the number of innocent children scarred for life.

There is no reason why members of the clergy, whether Catholics or evangelicals, should be exempt from abiding by the laws of the land like every other American; especially laws prohibiting adults in positions of authority from raping children. In California, if a school teacher, nurse, cafeteria worker, janitor, or counselor even suspects a student has been abused and fails to immediately report their suspicions, they face up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. Moreover, if a school teacher et al “intentionally conceals his or her failure to report an incident  of abuse or severe neglect, the failure to report is a continuing offense.” Clergy are exempt from mandatory reporting requirements in California because of religious freedom.

It is true that although no church leader has claimed religious freedom to cover up child rape-by-clergy yet, they know that the only reason they can legally cover up pedophilia is because religious freedom exempts them from adhering to the law. Until that changes, the Pope can issue all the sternly-worded letters he wants, and Catholic adherents can continue “considering” withholding donations to the Church with the same results. Catholic priests and evangelical preachers can rape children with impunity because in America religious freedom means, among other things, the law of the land applies to everyone except child rapists that are Catholic priests, evangelical preachers and their leaders.