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Southern Religion

When is leniency due?

Sex offenders are apparently unsurprised when Southern Baptist clergy seek clemency for them, as Raleigh, N.C., pastor Ricky Mill did last Monday for a man convicted of possessing child pornography.

The pastor’s good faith not at issue, but the overall predictability of the behavior is a concern.

In 2003 a researcher [.pdf] was told by a predator:

I considered church people easy to fool … they have a trust that comes from being Christians…They tend to be better folks all around. And they seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people … I think they want to believe in people. And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words.

The court was unconvinced, and on firm ground the plea for clemency made by Mills and others. Whatever the personal history of that individual offender, a study of child pornography offenders at the Butner, N.C., federal prison by M.L. Bourke and A.E. Hernandez Journal of Family Violence found:

More than 85 percent admitted to abusing at least one child, they found, compared with 26 percent who were known to have committed any “hands on” offenses at sentencing. The researchers also counted many more total victims: 1,777, a more than 20-fold increase from the 75 identified when the men were sentenced.

That study suggests a risk to the community in releasing a known offender. The offender has a twelve-year history of “looking at images of children being molested and sexually abused,” and according to the Charlotte Observer had accumulated “more than 3,400 images and videos of naked, molested boys and girls, toddlers and teens.”

If the pattern of seeking leniency had not already been established in cases in involving crimes like and including sexual indecency with children, it might be overlooked. Instead, it should be corrected.

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September 22, 2009 - Posted by | Churches, Crime, Religion, SBC

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