Posts Tagged “sex offenders”

Jesus weptFor years, I’ve reported on the problem of clerical predators abusing people — all too often, children — and be shielded by virtue of their sacred offices. Usually this has involved the Catholic Church, because the Catholic hierarchs have, historically, worked to prevent their clergy from being prosecuted or sued. They’ve even moved personnel around surreptitiously in order to keep them out of the hands of Johnny Law. Catholic apologists love to whine that these kinds of reports hit the media “only” when their precious Church is involved, and abuse by other clergy — or other types of folks, such as public-school teachers — is never reported. (In fact, it is! But they don’t really care to admit it.) They think this is some kind of defense of their Church.

Well, it’s not. Yes, I concede this sort of thing is not solely a Catholic problem. Over the years I’ve repeatedly said this, and have blogged about various cases. That, however, doesn’t appear to stop Catholic apologists from making this whine.

So to be clear, I present another sordid tale, reported by the Hartford Courant, that involves a Baptist church in New Haven, CT (WebCite cached article):

A pastor at a Baptist Church in New Haven was allowed to continue leading his church for five years while on the state sex offender registry after a child-molestation conviction, letters from church officials and state court records show.

It was only after his second arrest — in 2014 on child pornography charges — that Eli Echevarria stepped down from leading El Calvario Baptist Church, according to the letters and court records.

Church leaders, who operate independently of the central Baptist governing authority in Connecticut, have not responded to multiple requests for comment. Echevarria is serving a two-year prison sentence.

The Courant goes on to explain what happened here. Unlike the Catholic Church, which uses its vast size and its pervasive, homogeneous organization to help abusers avoid detection, Echevarria took advantage of Baptists’ decentralized structure and “hands off” approach:

But the case and the way it was handled have sparked criticism of the church’s governing authority.

The fact that American Baptist Churches of Connecticut, the church’s ruling body, never informed other pastors of Echevarria’s history came to the attention of William Keane, pastor at First Baptist Church of Branford, after Echevarria began attending his church.

Keane criticized the statewide church’s handling of Echevarria’s situation, including a policy put in place after Echevarria’s second conviction that requires state church officials to run the names of all pastors through the state’s sex offender registry list at least once every two years.…

ABCConn does not install local pastors. Individual churches hire, and can fire, their pastor. The statewide group only sets overarching policy.

In essence, then, this structure (or lack thereof) allows both the Baptists’ governing council in Connecticut, and the management of the El Calvario church, to endlessly pass blame to each other. It’s rather a convenient setup, isn’t it? Even if, ironically, it’s the opposite of how the Catholic Church gets around things like this.

I’m sure some Catholic apologists will jump up and down for joy at this revelation. “You see? It’s not just us!” they’ll happily announce. And in doing so, they won’t have gotten the point … which is that religions are supposedly bastions of morality, not dens of iniquity. Purposely structuring a religion in such a way as to allow predators to operate freely and without accountability, is no way to run things — unless you’re trying to arrange it so that malcontents can skate. That its clergy sometimes turn out to be criminals does nothing to reinforce the notion that a religion has any moral superiority. In fact, it leans against such a conclusion.

I’ll close by commending Pastor Keane for having worked to bring at least some accountability here. He took on his own organization, in defense of kids. Good for him! Would that there’d been more like-minded folks running El Calvario and managing ABCConn.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Jack O' Lantern - Witches' BrewHalloween seems to bring out the ridiculous in a lot of Americans. And the mass media have more than a little to do with it. A common mantra every year is that children are sickened and sometimes killed by trick-or-treat candy, every year, because they ingested a “treat” that had been poisoned. Unfortunately for this all-too-common myth, it simply is not true (WebCite cached article). This year, the concern voiced by local media here in Connecticut is not toxic treats, but sex offenders. For instance, WTIC-AM 1080 in Hartford offers this proud announcement that the state plans to head off this danger (cached):

Connecticut Department of Correction parole officers will be conducting unannounced home visits and surveillance of the roughly 250 sex offenders under their supervision, for Halloween.

Offenders have been advised to have no contact with minors, keep their outside lights off, and not answer the door for trick or treaters.

And the venerable Hartford Courant dutifully carries a virtually-identical story (cached):

Trick-or-treaters may not be the only ones showing up on Connecticut doorsteps this Halloween.

Parole officers will make unannounced visits to sex offenders’ homes, although the offenders may not know it, the Department of Correction announced Thursday.

They’ll be watching to make sure offenders are not having contact with minors — even those who show up at their homes. The sex offenders have been told to keep their outside lights off and refrain from answering their doors, the agency stated in a press release.

Right at the start, let me state that there is clearly a potential danger here, that some child might unknowingly knock on the door of a sex offender. Clearly that’s possible. I don’t deny it, not in the slightest.

But let’s put this in perspective. It’s exceedingly rare for any child to go trick-or-treating alone, not to mention unsupervised. (We used to go out by ourselves when I was a kid, but that never happens these days. More’s the pity.) The chances that any given sex offender might answer the door and be faced with a lone trick-or-treater he might be able to molest, are extremely remote.

Making this an even more improbable scenario, please note that we’re talking about 250 sex offenders. Yes, that’s 250 … in a state with a population in excess of 3.5 million! The average child in Connecticut will not even go near a sex offender’s home in the first place. A child trick-or-treating at 25 homes (for instance) has a 0.179% chance of encountering a sex offender. That’s right, not even .2 percent of a chance.

(Updated to add: My figures here are wrong. CT has an average household size of 2.52. This means the odds of a trick-or-treater encountering a sex offender while visiting 25 homes, is actually 0.45%. Higher than I cited, but still certainly not significant.)

Talk about a ridiculous non-story. Give me a fucking break!

P.S. In the world of Christian religionism, it turns out that some of them are more than a bit miffed that Halloween is too non-Christian a holiday. So they’ve launched a campaign to celebrate Jesus Ween instead (cached). Yes, you read that right: Jesus Ween (cached). The less said about that, the better, I think … !

Photo credit: De’Nick’nise.

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Halloween inevitably creates “danger” scenarios, especially regarding trick or treat. Back when I was a kid we heard about poisoned candy. With maybe a couple of exceptions — including one in which a child was poisoned by a family member, not a stranger he’d solicited candy from during his trick or treat outing — these stories are pretty much unfounded.

The scare has moved on to new targets since then. Now the danger is sex offenders who will — the presumption goes — prey on visiting kids. CNN, among other media outlets, breathlessly reports:

During the week before Halloween each year, Lt. Steve Rose of the Sandy Springs Police Department in Georgia knocks on the doors of every registered sex offender in his jurisdiction.

Rose set out in his unmarked Dodge Charger Wednesday with a printout of 20 names to verify that the people on the list live where they say they live.

His mission brings him and members of his force to subdivisions, houses, hotels and and apartment buildings in this Atlanta bedroom community of about 85,000 people.

“We do this to give people a level of comfort so they know we’re keeping tabs on them,” said Rose, a former sex crimes detective with 34 years of police experience.

Gee, that’s so nice and comforting. The only trouble is, the whole thing is a crock! LiveScience reports, via Yahoo News:

Each year at Halloween, parents have concerns about trick-or-treating, and many believe that a danger far graver than chocolate overdose awaits their children in quiet neighborhoods: sex offenders.

This scare is fueled by alarmist news reports and police warnings. In many states, convicted sex offenders are required not to answer the door if trick-or-treaters come by, or to report to jail overnight. In many states including Texas and Arkansas offenders will be required to report to courthouses on Halloween evening for a mandatory counseling session. …

A new study shows that the public has little to fear from sex offenders on Halloween. The research, published in the September issue of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, examined 67,307 non-family sex offenses reported to law enforcement in 30 states over nine years. …

“There does not appear to be a need for alarm concerning sexual abuse on these particular days,” the researchers state. “Halloween appears to be just another autumn day where rates of sex crimes against children are concerned.”

The bottom line is that resources and money are being wasted:

Not only is the hype and fear unwarranted, but the study also suggests extra taxpayer dollars spent monitoring sex offenders on Halloween are wasted. All the mandatory counseling sessions, increased police presence, and so on had no effect at all on the incidence of sexual abuse on Halloween.

It’s time to grow up and stop already with moral panics and the scare tactics. That goes for the police departments looking to ratchet up their overtime budgets, and reporters in the mass media who know better than to frighten people without good reason. OK?

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