$4 Billion Spent on Abuse Crisis • Faith Healing • Houston v. Church, Round 2: News Roundup
    This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
    $4 Billion Spent on Abuse Crisis • Faith Healing • Houston v. Church, Round 2: News Roundup

    Sexual Abuse Has Cost the Catholic Church Almost $4 Billion. “The US Catholic church has incurred nearly $4 billion in costs related to the priest sex abuse crisis during the past 65 years, according to an extensive NCR investigation of media reports, databases, and church documents. In addition, separate research recently published calculates that other scandal-related consequences such as lost membership and diverted giving has cost the church more than $2.3 billion annually for the past 30 years” (“NCR research: Costs of sex abuse crisis to US church underestimated,” National Catholic Reporter).

    Last month, Church Law & Tax published an article on the state of child abuse today and why churches should take note.

    Texas Church Hires Youth Pastor Accused of Sex Crimes. “A former Muscle Shoals [Alabama] youth pastor facing 20 counts of rape and 9 counts of sodomy in Alabama has been hired by a church in Texas, and congregants there are not pleased. … The 32-year-old [minister], who was arrested last August, was youth pastor of Woodward Avenue Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals between 2010 and 2012, when the girl alleges he raped and sodomized her repeatedly. She was 14 years old when the alleged abuse began. … Woodward Avenue officials said at the time of [the minister’s] arrest that they were shocked by the allegations and were cooperating with the investigation” (“Former Muscle Shoals youth pastor accused of rape, sodomy hired by Texas church – and members are not happy,” AL.com).

    It is vital that churches conduct thorough background checks and establish a child sexual abuse prevention policy.

    Conviction Upheld for Faith Healing Couple Whose Infant Died without Treatment. "It was September 26, 2009, and [the baby] had arrived two months premature, weighing 3 pounds, 7 ounces, according to court documents. Despite his small stature, his parents said, he had a healthy glow and strong cry. But hours later he was dying—the color and muscle tone falling from his face. … His parents, Dale and Shannon Hickman, were later found guilty of manslaughter for failing to seek medical attention for their newborn son. The conviction was upheld last week by the Oregon Supreme Court… ‘They believe that God heals, which all Christians believe, but they take it a step further, thinking that God always heals,’ Jonathan Merritt, an author and religion columnist, told The Washington Post. … ‘The law of civil society demands that they change. It demands that we sent a message to all of them that whether you believe this or not in Oregon, you cannot act upon that belief,’ [prosecutor Mike Regan said]” (“Faith-healing parents convicted in newborn’s death lose appeal to top court,” The Washington Post).

    The September/October issue of Church Law & Tax Report details other trends around the country that limit religious protections when public health issues are at stake.

    Houston Backs Down from Eminent Domain Seizure of Church’s Land. “The City of Houston has abandoned an effort to use eminent domain power to destroy the outdoor ministry area of Latter Day Deliverance Revival Church, a predominantly black church in Houston, Texas’ Fifth Ward. … [T]he Houston Housing Authority announced that it was exercising its power of eminent domain to condemn the church’s outdoor ministry area, seizing it to turn it over to for-profit businesses in order to create jobs, stimulate the economy, and generate new tax revenue. … But on November 2, the city of Houston announced that it was withdrawing its condemnation action and ending the legal proceedings, forever abandoning the effort to seize part of the church’s property” (“Breaking: Houston Abandons Eminent Domain Against Black Church,” Breitbart News).

    Church Law & Tax reported last fall about another brush of the Houston city government with churches, when a months-long conflict between city leaders and religious leaders involved the city's attempt to subpoena sermons, emails, and other records from five area churches.

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