Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sexual Healing

Remember that old Marvin Gaye tune from the 80's? Kind of the last thing you'd think about when you go to church (I hope), but it nonetheless is a big problem, according to this Baylor University study.

Many Women Targeted by Faith Leaders:

One in every 33 women who attend worship services regularly has been the target of sexual advances by a religious leader, a survey released Wednesday says.

The study, by Baylor University researchers, found that the problem is so pervasive that it almost certainly involves a wide range of denominations, religious traditions and leaders.

It found that more than two-thirds of the offenders were married to someone else at the time of the advance.
Nice. Bad enough that, but to prey on congregants and usurp the power imbalance which naturally exists between a spiritual leader and a follower is a textbook definition of quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Carolyn Waterstradt, 42, a graduate student who lives in the Midwest, said she was coerced into a sexual relationship with a married minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for 18 months. He had been her pastor for a decade, she said, and told her the relationship was ordained by God.
Note that since most religions are patriarchal in nature, relegating women to subordinate status, this is mainly "men of the cloth" taking advantage of female parishioners. I believe it was former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder who said, "to stop sexual harassment, men need to understand that the word 'harass' is one word." That would include these "chosen" men as well.

While the article mentions most denominations have rules and punishments for clergy who cross the line, the prevalence of such incidents is more than troubling. Organized religion can and should do better than that.

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