30 March 2008

Religious Groomers

I have had cause to consider how much of a link there is between religious evangelizing and 'grooming'. There appears to be a link to me and it makes me shudder to think of the same predatory tactics used by people with unsavoury intentions are to engage and manipulate young minds into behaviours which the children are unable to give full consensual permission.

People who evangelize to young children, i.e. those under the age of consent, say less than 18 years old, should be prosecuted as breaking the law. The damage they do is similar to the damage done by paedophiles who have violated their victims without their informed consent.

Let's take an anecdotal look at their similar modi operandi:
They present a friendly face to youngsters. Set up youth friendly facilities or activities which will enable them to get closer to their subjects. Become interested in the things that the young people are interested in. Make available items like chocolate, colouring books, sweeties/candy, etc. They introduce a topic that the predator has as a main focus , either sexual interest or their religion. They spend time making their subject feel comfortable. The groomer convinces themselves that they are doing what they do because they want to share the love they have.
Don't forget paedophiles sometimes abuse children in their own families - just like religious groomers. Those children are trapped and unable to remove themselves from their abusive homes and their abusers.
Any adult, whether part of a religious organisation or not, who grooms minors, whether knowingly or unknowingly, should be prosecuted. Laws should be created to protect minors from them.
It is the same as if a person had an inappropriate relationship with a minor - poisoning a child's mind with dogmatic fairy stories designed, essentially, to confuse and create long-term damage.

Children's minds are like sponges, they are receptive to all kinds of stimuli and experiences and especially dogma. We, as adults, have a responsibility to put aside our personal views and prejudices which could have a negative impact on children who come into contact with us.

I am not someone who believes that you should not talk to children about religion - it is important to inform children of the belief systems of the world we live in but we have a duty to do that responsibly. That means ensuring our responses to their questions are age-appropriate, relevant, unbiased and are based on facts as we know them. Let children decide what they want to know. Let them teach us how they want to be taught.

Do you know someone who is a religious 'groomer'? Are you comfortable with what they do?


Zaki said...

100% agreement. Only problem is that people will never see the harm in brainwashing a kid the same way they would see the harm in sexually abusing them.

I'll have to agree that sexual abuse is worse than the mental or emotional abuse brought on by religion....but abuse is abuse. I've been saying for some time now that (if people insist on teaching religion at all) it shouldn't be until they're much older.

Things like Jesus Camps are incredibly abusive, but since Jesus is attached to it, the gov't looks the other way I guess. I hardly think a kid needs to even worry about any of this stuff until they're much older anyway....let them play with their dolls and legos.

chandy said...

One of my friends (expat English) is (religious groomer). She's got a gorgeous daughter and my fear is that her teachings of abstinence, eg, is ok, but reality tends to be a hard lesson. I try my darnest to encourage her to talk about teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted deseases etc as this is reality. She prefers to believe that from her "religious teachings" her daughter will just, well, abstain.
It's scary how we "arm" our kids, with "the bible says so", but yet expect them to make sound decisions!.

Zee Harrison said...

The Jesus Camps are frightening. All those brain-washing environments are so damaging - and people will pay money to send their children to places like that. Watch my next post video.
Shocking and criminal.

The view that if you 'abstain and everything will be fine' is so obviously wrong. It creates more problems than it solves.
Thank you for trying to educate your 'groomer' friend. Broaching these issues with people who think like that can break friendships but it must be done. Good for you and I hope it makes a difference.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone! {waves}

I'm new to this blog.

I have not heard the term "religious groomers" before! I'll have to read up on this.

I have to say that I am NOT against evangelizing to children because I attended church all by myself as a little girl (accepted Jesus Christ as Lord) and today I am a minister but my parents did not EVER attend church with me.

I think that if the child is able to make a decision about his/her beliefs then the parent should allow the child to learn more about what interests him/her provided that it is not detrimental, mentally or emotionally, or otherwise.

Thanks for letting me share my views in this convo!

Be well,
Minister Lisa Vazquez

The Trumpeter said...

Zee i appreciate your open and free-mindedness on burning issues!
The irony of the situation is that if you don't teach the kids some morals early in life, the movies/hip hop stars/celebrities will.
Nothing wrong for a father/mother to teach his/her children some morals. But like you said, such teachings should be age-appropriate.

isabella mori said...

my daughter fell for this for a few years. it was a difficult time, especially when she was so heartbroken thinking that her family would not meet her in heaven because we had not accepted jesus as our saviour.

the crazy thing is that in many ways, hanging out with these groups was good for her. she was an impetuous, tempestuous girl, and the structure she found at church was good for her.

it was an interesting time, balancing my wish to support her passion with my conviction that while spirituality is important, nobody should ever be "groomed" (what a polite word for brainwashing).

eventually, she woke up to the inconsistencies of the church.

and it was very much like you describe; in fact, that's partly where she ended up seeing the inconsistencies. the outings and the rollerskating and the singing and the chocolate - all real nice; but once they thought they "had" her (once she was baptized), she saw that much of it was a front. sad, really, because on other levels, the church she was involved in does absolutely amazing work.

btw, paedophiles don't "sometimes" abuse children in their own families - the vast majority of children are sexually abused by people they know well - often friends and family.

"any adult, whether part of a religious organisation or not, who grooms minors, whether knowingly or unknowingly, should be prosecuted."

uh, that should throw a good portion of teachers into jail. they groom children to be sheeple.

C Woods said...

"Freethought Today," published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (www.FFRF.org), each month prints a two-page spread of "Black-Collar Crime" proving that being religious does not necessarily make people moral or ethical. While some of the crimes are theft, fraud, and even murder, the vast majority of crimes are sex-related, (molestation, rape, fondling) and everyone on the list is either a priest, minister, rabbi, church organist, Sunday school teacher, deacon, or other church employee. So, these religious organizations are not only pulling kids into religious dogma in a fashion similar to how pedophiles lure children, many of them are actual sexual predators of both children and adults. I know the large majority of religious people are moral and ethical (as are most non-religious people) but the fact that these predators are in positions of trust is scary. What better place for someone like that to hide ---in a church ---to find innocent victims?

eoing said...

Great article. Couldnt agree more. The problem that gets me is how absent this perspective is from our politicians. To address 'grooming' we need to change the polical landscape.

When are we going to get politicians that are not afraid of challenging religious groups?!

Judith said...

I am with you on this issue Zee, but I did stop and think when you referred to "poisoning a child's mind with dogmatic fairy stories".
How do you see the normal 'fairy stories' of childhood in all this - are they also harmful brainwashing? And Father Christmas (Santa)and the Tooth Fairy? It is possible to argue that fairy stories have lessons to teach by allegory - which is also a way of looking at the Bible.

Anonymous said...

I understand that 'grooming' may be bad thing but in the long run its for the kids own good. Of coures God is coming @isabella mori of course God is coming back to take his followers to heaven. Just because someone wants to teach you life saving lessons doesn't mean their brainwashing you.....i mean c'mon would you prefer kids to be in the dark and reach their adulthood and than do nasty things which you'll regret for not teaching them not to. Evengilism is NOT brainwahsing! Its very sad the to see that some people actual see it as brainwashing :(