http://www.fair-cult-concern.co.uk/fair-news3-2000.html

ANNUAL FAIR LECTURE

The Annual FAIR lecture was presented on October 21 2000 at the Royal Society of Medicine, London by Professor Stephen Kent.

He works in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta , Edmonton , Alberta , Canada T6G 2H4 .

His title was “Alternative Religions and Child Sexual Abuse”

The following is a review by Dr. Bryan Tully.

Stephen’s Kent ‘s fascinating and scholarly talk began with two qualifications. First in terms of sheer numbers it was probable that more children had been abused within the ambit of mainstream religions. A second, many adherents of alternative religious sects would be as shocked and dismayed at child abuse as anyone else. Nonetheless, the thrust of Stephen Kent’s presentation was that historical and documented legal record indicated that there were structural predispositions and theological beliefs, which facilitated child sexual abuse within these sects.

A key fact was the existence of “trusted hierarchies”, within such organisations that gave “unguarded access” to children by paedophiles under cover. The second was the belief that members of the “elect” or charismatic leaders, who had brought followers to remarkable spiritual experiences, could not possibly have sexual urges for children or teens.

Stephen Kent told his audience of an early group, the Oneida Community, which abused teens in the mid 19th century in upstate New York . It’s founder, John Noyes claimed, “first husband” sexual initiation rights over teens and women. Charles Leadbeater was an early 20th century pederast in England who used his position within the Theosophical Society to engage boys in various forms of “sex magic”. Professor Kent has collected cases from many countries and historical epochs. Several organisations are facing legal suits in both Canada and the U.S. currently.

One organisation facing a multi million lawsuit and which has admitted widespread abuse in its boarding schools especially is the Hare Krishna movement. Professor Kent contrasted this with what he called the frustrating cases where there had been a singular lack of investigative and prosecutory success, in spite of well founded allegations. He cited “The Family” (formerly Children of God”) as an example. There was thought to be a number of reasons. First the Hare Krishnas had been prosecuted in the U.S. “the world’s most litigious country”, whilst the Children of God, in spite of having many hundreds of children “confiscated” had faced far less investigation in other countries. The more children had been abused within the ambit of mainstream religions. A second, many adherents of alternative religious sects would be as shocked and dismayed at child abuse as anyone else. Nonetheless, the thrust of Stephen Kent’s presentation was that historical and documented legal record indicated that there were structural predispositions and theological beliefs, which facilitated child sexual abuse within these sects.

A key fact was the existence of “trusted hierarchies”, within such organisations which gave “unguarded access” to children by paedophiles under cover. The second was the belief that members of the “elect” or charismatic leaders, who had brought followers to remarkable spiritual experiences, could not possibly have sexual urges for children or teens.

Stephen Kent told his audience of an early group, the Oneida Community, which abused teens in the mid 19th century in upstate New York . It’s founder, John Noyes claimed “first husband” sexual initiation rights over teens and women. Charles Leadbeater was an early 20th century pederast in England who used his position within the Theosophical Society to engage boys in various forms of “sex magic”. Professor Kent has collected cases from many countries and historical epochs. Several organisations are facing legal suits in both Canada and the U.S. currently.

One organisation facing a multi million lawsuit and which has admitted widespread abuse in its boarding schools especially, is the Hare Krishna movement. Professor Kent contrasted this with what he called the frustrating cases where there had been a singular lack of investigative and prosecutory success, in spite of well founded allegations. He cited “The Family” (formerly Children of God”) as an example. There was thought to be a number of reasons. First the Hare Krishnas had been prosecuted in the U.S. “the world’s most litigious country”, whilst the Children of God, in spite of having many hundreds of children “confiscated” had faced far less investigation in other countries. The Hare Krishnas had a proper governing body who could be pressured and appealed to, whilst the real leaders of the Children of God etc were hard to find. The Hare Krishnas owned property, whilst the Children of God or their leaders apparently did not. Stephen Kent felt there was indeed no reason to be optimistic that such hard to penetrate closed communities would be investigated with the vigour required. Gravely he concluded that within these groups, the likelihood of sexual abuse, combined with other forms of abuse, physical, medical, dietary, and religious meant that the lives of some sectarian children was particularly grim.

Stephen Kent’s talk has provided a propitious commentary for FAIR’s current consideration of how children’s rights to a decent life and to make free choices can be promoted within a Human Rights framework.

BRYAN TULLY