During the past year, the public was stunned by revelations of sexual molestation of young athletes by coaches, trainers, and others associated with USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, and USA Taekwondo. As public scrutiny focused on this scandal, it was soon learned that over the past 20 years, at least 368 victims, many of whom were young athletes, were subjected to sexual abuse by coaches, doctors, or other adults affiliated with youth sports programs. Victims claimed that youth sports organizations did nothing in response to their cries for help.
These revelations led to the near-unanimous enactment by Congress, in February 2018, of the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017.
While many churches will not be directly affected by the Act, every church will be indirectly affected by the “best practices” and “standards of care” embodied in the Act. The Act will be relevant in assisting church leaders in establishing or updating their own child protection and abuse reporting procedures. Church leaders often are frustrated by the lack of concrete guidance in establishing such policies, and so efforts by other charities, and most importantly by the federal and state governments, to formulate child protection policies can be helpful, at least indirectly, to churches, in the following two ways:
- the Act provides church leaders with helpful guidance in drafting their own child abuse policies, and
- it provides a benchmark or standard that churches can follow to help defend against child abuse claims alleging negligence in the selection and supervision of workers.