Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Proposed Solution to the Sexual Predator Problem

I won't even start to link to all the blogs that have tried to crack this nut. I have greatly enjoyed participating in the discussion at several sites. In general, I believe that it is impossible for the SBC to do anything about this problem that both (a) enjoys any chance of making a substantive positive difference, and (b) does not violate Southern Baptist polity. But how about this? Why not pass secular federal legislation requiring every institution (schools, churches, day cares, Chuck E. Cheese) that interacts with children to perform a thorough criminal background check on every employee? I could not support legislation in which the government dared to tell a church whom it could hire or couldn't hire (violation of the First Amendment), but if the government required every church to run the check, then no church could hide behind the excuse that it didn't know it was hiring a convicted sexual offender. Churches that knowingly hired sexual predators would quickly be out of business, I imagine. Finally, let me mention—at great personal risk of being accused of being soft on sexual predators—another reason I could not support federal legislation preventing churches from hiring convicted sexual offenders. Currently in Texas, if I understand the law correctly, there is no legal distinction made between the following two situations, as far as "sexual offender" status goes:

  1. An eighteen-year-old boy falls in love with a sixteen-year-old girl, has sex with her, her parents find out and hit the roof, they call the police, and the boy is charged with and convicted of statutory rape.
  2. A thirty-five-year-old man molests his seven-year-old nephew.
The latter should not serve in a church, but should federal law prevent the former from doing so? I am much more confident in churches making this decision (although many of them admittedly will do very dumb things) than I am with the federal government making this decision (who will do more and dumber things).

15 comments:

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

I have got to think through this statutory rape analysis. Call me old fashioned, but I have a 9 year old daughter.

Blessings,
Tim

Bart Barber said...

Bro. Tim,

I'm old fashioned, too. I have a ten-month-old daughter. I am condoning neither action, nor am I suggesting that either action ought to be legal.

I am merely asserting that they are not equivalent. There is nothing deviant about an eighteen-year-old boy's interest in a sixteen-year-old girl. There is something deviant about an uncle taking sexual interest in a niece. In my opinion, the boy in the first case (assuming that there is nothing otherwise sinister lurking in his person) poses very little danger to society. Tagging him for life as a sexual predator is a miscarriage of justice.

The fact that his interest is not deviant does not mean that it is right or that it should be legal. There is nothing deviant about my interest in an ingot of gold, but it is immoral and illegal for me to rob Fort Knox nonetheless.

CB Scott said...

Bart,

This has possibilities.

Tim,

There have been many 26,27,etc.year old guys that went to a bar and got drunk and left with a 15 year old that looked 36. You know the rest of the story.

These guys are not true "short eyes." They are just ungody and stupid men that got drunk and went after the first willing skirt. There is a great difference in this guy and a true pedophile.

cb

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, CB.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

You are correct, but I still have a 9 year old daughter.

Brother CB,

You are correct as well, but I, let me repeat, I, do you understand, I have a 9 year old daughter.

:>)

Blessings,
Tim

R. L. Vaughn said...

Good post, Bart (also the one on partial birth abortion).

I am in agreement with you on your illustrations of "situation 1" and "situation 2" concerning the convicted sex offender lists. I have seen these printed in our local papers, with the "#1's" right along side of the "#2's". These are not equivalent; both are sins, but they are not the same kinds of sex crimes.

If we're going to print the name of the 18 yr-old boy (from the situation with the 16 yr-old girl), it probably should be printed in the paper right along side our names:
Joe Blow, adulterer, having an affair with his secretary
Jane Doe, gossiper, ruined the reputation of her sister
John-boy Jim, murderer, hates his brother
Etc.

Perhaps that helps illustrate the idea as I see it. Keep the good stuff coming.

CB Scott said...

Tim,

I do understand. I most certainly understand.

cb

Bart Barber said...

R. L., we agree (as seems to happen frequently!)

Tim, I would say that I understand, but I have a feeling that eight years and two months from now I'll understand much better.

Anonymous said...

Never thought I would see any baptist asking for the federal government to impose on all churches any employment requirement, but I appreciate your desire to find a fix to the problem. I don't like SNAP's proposed solution but like it much better than yours. ;)

Why not have the SBC vote to do the same, i.e., kick out any church that does not prove they did a background check? I'd rather have the SBC's imposition on my decisonmaking than the feds. Don't think either is realistic.

I know that the measures now in place don't seem strong enough - education, policy and staff assistance from various state and SBC entities - but these are the soundest and most effective in view of the reality that sbc churches are altogether independent. We all deplore the problem but it is not systemic as in the catholic church where clergy supervisors knowingly transfered dozens, hundreds of pedophile priests from parish to parish.

The SBC will, I predict, come up with a convicted offender registry but still cannot require any church to check it. The registry would have the same problems your examples present, that of various levels of offense qualifying one for the list.

It is no small step forward that dozens of pastors and SBC laypeople are getting an education on the matter through online discussions.

William

Bro. Robin said...

Bart

I understand the difference you are making, but I also side with Tim in that I have a soon to be 11 year old daughter.

I still think the best option, though not 100% fool proof is to have a task force responsible for working through the state conventions to the local DOM's to educate associations on the dangers and policies that would curb these dangers. This task force could provide (if bought in bulk) reduced cost background checks. This would respect local autonomy and still provide a means by which we are battling the problem. This needs to be curbed on the local level, not in a bureaucracy. BTW, background checks are only part of the solution. While nothing is 100% fool proof, the bulk of protecting our children must be in policies that protect them on the local church level that will be barriers to those who have slipped through the system or are first time offenders.

Bart Barber said...

William,

It is not a proposal for the federal government to impose such regulations on churches only—every business or charity that performs caretaking of or caters to children ought to follow these guildelines for the sake of childrens' safety. The federal government already, for example, requires us to have handicapped-accessible facilities. But these are not laws aimed particularly at churches, and they do not impede the religious purposes of the church.

Thanks for stopping by. There are more problems and more serious problems with the database solution, as I have mentioned in another forum (see here) in the comment section. Not wanting another round of exactly the same discussion, I did not include those thoughts here, but I would encourage you to read them before coming to any firm conclusions about the SBC database solution.

Bart Barber said...

Robin and Tim,

Look, if an eighteen-year-old starts sweet-talking your daughters in a few years, I just don't think that such a person ought to be labeled as a sexual offender. I do, however, believe that you are entirely within your rights as a father to shoot him.

Bart Barber said...

Robin,

You accurately point out that background checks are only a portion of the solution. I do not think that your proposal and mine are at odds. Perhaps they complement one another well.

Bart Barber said...

To all:

I'm heading to Austin to attend a missions conference. I'll be offline for most of the weekend.

Anonymous said...

A little late for this, but...

...a comprehensive ADA-type law aimed at background checks would be an entire new legal industry, not to mention bureaucratic behemoth...and still would not catch most of the predators who lack convictions.

I have read and participated in numerous discussion of SBC solutions, SNAP et al, and feel sure the SBC will have a registry-based solutions regardless of the problems, look for a word prior to june. That's my tea leaf reading anyhow...

William