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COGIC sexual abuse policies: mandatory or suggestive?

Has the Church of God in Christ made any significant progress in getting its clergy sexual abuse problem under control? The answer to that question may lie with two key factors. (1) The consistent implementation of church policies at the local church level and (2) the denomination’s enforcement mechanisms.

Without these two working in tandem, its only a matter of time –if not already– that another child or defenseless person is raped, molested, sexually abused or worse murdered by a COGIC representative.

In the past, although there have been small steps to address the issue, COGIC leadership under the administration of Bishop Charles Blake has rarely risen above what could be termed convenient “window dressing”. Eager to keep the church name, image and assets out of controversy, church leaders have made shoddy stitches without seeming to take serious the nature of sexual predation and the countless victims it leaves in its wake.

Its missive to the COGIC faithful, entitled “Keys to Reducing Litigation and Avoiding Liability”  may be telling about the denomination’s real motives in dealing with sexual abuse.  Based on 11 key points, the goal seems  purely legal and business oriented.  Its devoid of the concern for vulnerable human life connected to these real tragic crimes. This attitude is typical of those who view victims as “problems” rather than as people who need the church’s love and protection.

Not to mention strange coming from an organization which purports to uphold “holiness” as a standard.

1. Churches must have a comprehensive, written Sexual Misconduct program that includes and explains child sexual abuse issues

2. Workers who have direct contact with minors (this includes jurisdictional officials, pastors, employees and volunteers) must attend regular seminars and forums that disperse pertinent information regarding all ways in which their church can prevent cases of sexual misconduct, especially that of child molestation. Attendance at such sessions should be documented and kept on file.

3. The pressing need for volunteers and/or workers should not negate the need to be diligent as it relates to hiring practices within the Church.

4. There must be a comprehensive application process whereby individuals seeking to be volunteers or employees would be subject to an extensive investigation. Any person seeking a position (paid or unpaid) within the Church must have been a member of the local assembly for at least six (6) months.

5. Overnight trips should be very carefully planned and monitored with an appropriate number of screened adults.

6. Youth leaders must be mindful to avoid even casual, physical contact with a minor child in their care. Touching, hugging, fondling or kissing any young person is strictly prohibited.

7. Sunday school teachers, daycare providers, other youth workers must be alert to mood changes in minor children.

8. Never take light an allegation made by a child. All claims must be investigated immediately and with a great deal of discretion to clearly protect the rights of the child and those of the alleged tortfeasor.

9. Each childcare worker, Sunday school teacher, daycare provider and pastor must know the reporting requirements of their state for suspected child abuse.

10. Each jurisdiction and local church should have one individual responsible for dealing with the press, the police and the congregation at large as it relates to responding to the publicity that surrounds alleged sexual misconduct cases.

11. The local jurisdiction and the National Church can all be held liable for of the acts of one individual.

Its unclear if this was written by someone with a legitimate legal background. None of the policies are ever attributed to any single person, perhaps because they know they are under scrutiny.  For instance, the rigid command word must is mentioned several times, but there is nothing in place if a church, through neglect, ignorance or refusal fails to implement the denomination’s policies. But then in the same document, must is mixed with the suggestive identifier “should” leaving open the option of compliance. The final point is almost bizarre considering that COGIC’s legal representative Enoch Perry has argued —under oath— in numerous cases that the national church has no legal connection with a local church in these matters. See his Sherman Allen deposition.

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