In an interesting side note to a child sex abuse case, pastor Craig Johnson from Taylor County, WV, has been indicted on charges of failure to report child sex abuse. Charges state that the alleged abuser told the pastor about his actions and the pastor did not report him to the authorities.
While there is no way to say whether charges in this case are accurate – they are merely allegations at this point – this case highlights a serious issue in the church. All church leaders are mandated reporters. There is no guarantee of privacy for someone who confesses abuse of a minor to a clergy member, contrary to common misconception. Nor is a pastor excepted from this obligation if he hears of alleged abuse from someone besides the perpetrator but truly believes the person to be innocent. ALL allegations of physical and sexual abuse of a minor are required by law to be reported to authorities — without exception. Allegations of abuse by neglect get a little more fuzzy, but it would be better for a pastor to err on the side of caution in favor of the child’s welfare.
The Word says the government authorities are ordained by God for the preservation of good and protection against evil. Even if we have differences of philosophy on many levels, we need to remember that God inspired these words in the Bible during a time when the government specifically referenced was at least as corrupt as ours today. We must not live in fear that the government will “destroy families” if we report alleged evil. God has ordained government for our good and we are commanded to submit to every ordinance of man.
What we are seeing happen in reality is that children in the church are among the least protected in our society because abusers have a safe haven under the church’s misunderstanding that “preservation of the family” is paramount over the safety of the individuals in it. The Bible is full of admonitions to stand against oppression and affliction. That is the primary expression of true religion.
But today’s church seems to live in fear of all governmental authority and the result is willful disobedience to God. The truth is that there are an abundance of believers who work in the social system, even at the highest levels. And there are an abundance of believers who are foster parents for children who are removed from homes during investigation. God can be trusted with our children’s safety when we obey Him. But we cannot be trusted with their safety when we disobey Him by failing to report abuse allegations.