Janet Heimlich, one of the world's foremost authors on the topic and writer of the book Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment
, says children are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect if they live in religious authoritarian cultures.
"There are three perfect-storm factors that identify a religious culture or community as authoritarian:
One, the culture has a strict, social hierarchy.
Two, the culture is fearful.
And three, the culture is separatist,"
(Heimlich)told the Huffington Post in 2011. "The more intense these three factors are—the more authoritarian the culture is – the more likely children will be harmed."
"Questions of morality are, to some degree, questions of paying attention"".
Katherine Stewart—author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children—told me about the role played by those who I'll call "average peaceful" believers.
"Of course, there is no guilt by association, and people aren't directly responsible for the misdeeds of their coreligionists," she said. "But they do have a significant responsibility. Questions of morality are, to some degree, questions of paying attention. When people join a particular religious group, they don't have the luxury of not paying attention to what that religion and its hierarchy are doing. It doesn't mean they are responsible for misdeeds, but it is irresponsible to maintain ignorance of a pattern of allegations of abuse."