Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
The Roman Catholic Church isn't the only religious institution that has failed to respond directly and transparently to allegations of sexual impropriety.
Bishop Eddie Long, the pastor of the Georgia-based New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, has just settled out of court with the four young men who alleged Long had sexually coerced them. And neither side is talking.
After the allegations surfaced last September, Long said he would “vigorously” defend himself against charges that he used a combination of spiritual authority and material enticements (cars, jewelry, cash) to curry sexual favors from the men, who were 17 and 18 at the time.
Not any more, at least not in court.
And Long’s accusers won’t be talking either. B. J. Bernstein, their lawyer, said yesterday that they would not discuss the matter “now or in the future.”
Over the last few decades, observers of the Roman Catholic Church sex scandal have rightly argued for transparency — for taking sexual assault cases out of the hands of the secretive old boys network of priests and bishops and bringing them out into the open, including into the courts.
Why? So justice could be done, and so Catholic parents might come to feel safe once again entrusting their children to the care of priests.
American Zen centers have dealt in recent years with their own contagion of sexual abuse allegations against Zen masters, and they have done so with remarkable candor and transparency.
In December, a group of Zen leaders wrote a series of letters calling for the dismissal of Eido Tai Shimano from his position as abbot of the New York-based Zen Studies Society.
In her letter concerning the this case, Joan Halifax, founding abbot of the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, did not pull any punches. She called Shimano an “embarrassment to Buddhism” and his behavior, brought to national attention last August in the New York Times, “abusive, gender-biased, predatory, misogynistic.”
But she also compared the situation to “family members in a dysfunctional family,” adding that the wider Buddhist community was “complicit in some way . . . as we all knew what was going on."
To be fair to Long, the case against Eido Shimano was clearer cut (recently unsealed papers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa detail decades of sexual liasons with his female students), as are many of the cases against pedophile priests. But the reason we can say that is because the evidence has come out.
In Catholicism’s sex scandals, critics have commonly criticized structural issues. Rather than blaming this priest or that, they have blamed the Catholic practice of clerical celibacy. Or, in the case of a recent study by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, they blamed the permissiveness of the 1960s.
So I have to wonder whether there are structural issues in the Long case also. As names such as Swaggart, Bakker and Haggard remind us, he is not the first megachurch pastor accused of sexual abuse.
The Protestant Reformation was in part about getting away from the authority of priests and popes. Why approach God indirectly when you can do so directly, Protestants asked. Why not read the Bible for yourself?
Unfortunately, there isn't much evidence that many American Protestants today are reading scripture with frequency or care. On a battery of 12 questions about Christianity and the Bible, American Protestants got 6.5 questions right on average, for a score of 54%. Many must rely on pastors like Long to tell them what to do and think.
In her letter, Halifax discussed the dangers of “being under the spell of a teacher or person of authority.” But Christians fall under that spell too. And as they do, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to imagine that their ministers might be sexual predators.
I do not know what Bishop Eddie Long did or did not do with these four young men. I will say, however, that I am predisposed in these cases to give credence to the accusations of the alleged victims, if only because I
have seen sexual coercion happen so often in religious groups.
A civil trial might have changed that predisposition. And a complete and public investigation of Long’s actions by the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church could have done the same.
It’s a shame that neither of those things are going to happen. And those who have the most to be ashamed of — perhaps more than Long himself — are the people in the pews who come every weekend to worship him.
If you aren’t familiar with Long’s preaching style, you can view a sermon he gave in 2000 called “Stop the Cover Up.” To which I can only say, "Amen."
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
We all saw right through Long......a lie after a lie just don't fit and you must convict!
Black church folk HATES gay people no matter what they say about "forgiveness", they still act loony. And the funny thing is many of those people are closeted lesbians and gay men who gets on the gay chat right after church trying to hook up. They're also known to run their mouths about gay people while at the same time handing their children over to pedophiles.
Awesome article !!!
first of all to the moron that wrote this: Wife2AtheistSteve
I din't heed Steve's request to shave my armpit and to bathe at least once a week. My lawn mower is busted and taking a bath would bring me fever. Steve just filed a divorce.
YOU'RE WHAT 5???? GROW THE F$%$ UP DUMBA$$...EVEN IF HE SAW THIS CRAP HE WOULD KNOW IT WASN'T FROM ME. ADELINA, YOU'RE A LOSER FOR POSTING THIS
@Wife2-, I never do such thing. It must be some of your fellow atheists. Don't be surprised. HeavenSent and I get far worse treatment on daily basis. You must identify the person from the content of the writings. I knew it wasn't you. Also, note the posted time. A single nerd did for many.
There will never be justice for our youth unless and until those sitting in those pews stand up and spktruth2empower and our youth..The blame is squarely on shorty short penis long.. however those who supported this madness knew more than they chose to share, and for them i have no pity
If Mr. Eddie Long repents and reform his life before God, it will be a win-win situation. The young men and all who are involved should re-dedicate their lives to Jesus as well. This incident shows our lives will be fully revealed at some point, good or bad. No one is exempt. Everyone needs Jesus.
Long should have continue fighting to clear his name OR, humbly admit it, issue a public apology to all his members, pass his position to a more deserving one and redeem himself. Rather than using (congregation) member's money to shut up his accussers but let his integrity (granting that he has) completely go down the drain.
I lost my scissors and has ran out of paste. And my cranium is just there to grow me some hair.
They tied my feet using my shoe laces. Help me untie them or I'm dead!
They tied my feet using my shoe laces, I'm dead!
I drink my pee.
I usually cut my finger nails using my teeth.
While we are at it, lets review the vomit-inducing, pedophilia issues of other religions and throw in the Boy Scouts for good measure:
“As with other religious organizations, Jehovah's Witnesses have been obliged in recent years to develop child protection policies to deal with cases of child abuse in their congregations. Details of the policy have been published in Jehovah's Witnesses' publications and press releases issued by their Office of Public Information. Some details are found only in letters to elders which, while solely for internal use, have been made available on the Internet.”
“Facing calls to curb child se-x abuse within its churches, in June the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest U.S. religious body after the Catholic Church — urged local hiring committees to conduct federal background checks but rejected a proposal to create a central database of staff and clergy who have been either convicted of or indicted on charges of molesting minors. The SBC decided against such a database in part because its principle of local autonomy means it cannot compel individual churches to report any information. And while the headlines regarding churches and ped-ophilia remain largely focused on Catholic parishes, the lack of hierarchical structure and systematized record-keeping in most Protestant churches makes it harder not only for church leaders to impose standards, but for interested parties to track allegations of abuse. "
Brad Hirschfield: When Priests And Rabbis Commit Se-xual Abuse
Mar 29, 2010 ......
“The words used by Pope Benedict and others in responding to the Church's ever-deepening se-xual abuse crises reflect a sickness that is not unique to the Catholic community. In fact, that sickness creeps into all religious communities of which I know, and leaves a trail of victims in its wake every time. I refer to the way in which religious leaders and the communities which they lead wear the mantle of victimhood to cover their naked moral failings."
"Yet another prominent Orthodox rabbi has been charged with s-exual abuse. This time it is Rabbi Mordechai Elon, one of the foremost rabbinic leaders of the Israeli Orthodox movement and former rosh yeshiva at the flagship Yeshivat HaRav, where last year a Palestinian mounted an assault which left several students dead. The result was that students of the yeshiva and other far right Jews went on a rampage and tried to burn down the home of the family of the perpetrator of the attack. Elon’s brother is Benny, a former MK for a far-right pro-settler party.
At one time the rabbi was so renowned he’d hoped to be named chief rabbi. Alas, that hope is all but dashed as he was charged several years ago with abusing boys at his yeshiva:
Takana, a rabbinic forum established in 2003 to clamp down on s-exual misconduct by Orthodox educators, went public February 15 with allegations that Mordechai “Moti” Elon had taken advantage of his influence over male students and performed “acts at odds with sacred and moral values.”
The panel later said that two people, whose complaints alleged acts from about 25 years ago, had been under 18 at the time. More recent alleged acts involved students of Elon who were 18 or older. Since its initial disclosure, the panel reports having received one more complaint of an alleged underage encounter…
What is unusual about this case is that a splinter group of the Orthodox community is taking the position that the entire prosecution is an attempt to destroy rabbinic authority and the Orthodox movement. It calls for refusal to cooperate with state authorities (or to deal with the charge through a beyt din)."
"A jury in Oregon ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay $18.5 million to a former Scout who suffered s-exual abuse as a child at the hands of his troop leader — the largest such award levied against the organization, reports The Oregonian.
Attorneys for 38-year-old Kerry Lewis said the verdict exposed the organization’s “dark history with pe-dophiles and its unwillingness to come to terms with the problem.” They waved “pe-rversion files“ around the courtroom – secret files kept by the Scouts doc-umenting claims of se-xual abuse by troop leaders and volunteers over a 70 year-period."
If a child is being abused by a Jehovah Witness must likely it is being abused by his or her own family members not by the elders. These people do not trust any body with their children.
We have blessings because we live in an amazing universe and on an amazing planet not because of god or anything like that. Your argument is the argument for incredulity...basically "it is so incredible, it couldn't have come come nothing"...you once again give responsibility to something that can't be proven to exist.
This is my last response to you...it is obvious you can't be spoken to without you verbally assaulting someone. You are quite ignorant and not worthy of any more of my energy.
@Wife2AtheistSteve, do you know your gravest wrong doing? You insult Christians but are completely blind on the evil your fellow atheists are doing not just in this CNN blog but in all over the world. That's why you will live for your own selfishness, never helping anyone. Atheists are not good. None of you are good. You just have no idea how selfish you are. Face the reality.
@Adelina I am an atheist. I vollunteered in an NGO helping to feed starving children in Africa for over 8 months. What good have you done?
Bill, could you work side by side with a person of Faith in such an endevour? Sorta both working towards a common good.
Bill, you didn't give then the Gospel of eternal life. Useless, though better than nothing. Besides, you were touring a lot during those 8 months. I told atheists about Jesus for more than 4 decades. None were so deliberately evil and ignorant than present American atheists.
@Mark from Middle River As it so turns out, three of the workers there were atheist, and one of us was christian. The founders of the NGO were christians. It turned out this way, but before I went I knew little to nothing about the founder, and nothing about those I was working with.
@Adelina I'm not even going to argue about "Useless, though better than nothing." If you truly believe in fundamentalist christian ideology that makes sense.
However, let me set you straight on a few points. We woke up at 5 o'clock every morning, and were working untill 6 o'clock every night. After that we had to prepare for the next day, and on top of that had clerical work. Our weekends were spent preparing for the next week. All in all, I only took three breaks:
1) One of our drivers invited us to visit his home in Mozambique, and we spent two days on the trip.
2) We had 4 days off for christmas, and spent that near a lake.
3) I was given two weeks when my parents came to visit me, and we spent one of those in South Africa. The other week they helped out with the NGO to see what we were doing there.
We ALL worked our asses off, and rarely had any respite. Don't presume to know what I did while I was there.
Finally, if this is your idea of "telling atheists" I think you are doing it for little more than your own satisfaction. You will never win anyone to your side by screaming at them constantly about how horrible they are, and you should know as much.
Bill, now I believe you did somethig sub-stan-tial with a non-profit. I thought all American atheists wanted to reduce human population by massacring the unwanted babies, the starving humans and the fighting radical Muslims. Atheists only transmit despair and you con-gra-tu-late yourselves as good when you did only something what every human must do naturally and duti-fully. On the contrary, Christians sacrifice everything, provides the real eternal hope to everyone, and never think of themselves as good but only glorify their Maker. I support missionaries until I get hurt. I never scream at atheists. You just imagine so because you hate the religious people.
Bill, fight against the dirty, filthy manners of your fellow atheists. Then I'll believe you have some real bit of morality.
Bill, you need to experience the attacks by your own fellow atheists. Then you will know how moral your atheistic friends are. People can claim anything but cannot pretend, mind you. Know yourself. Unless one is ready to give up everything, even life, to be good(Jesus' side), humans always end up being in villains' side. Watching evil and doing nothing about it is evil. The reason there is Judgment Day.
@Adelina Regardless of whether you are screaming or not, you call us "filthy," "horrible," "evil," and the like. The point still stands. If you want to have even a shred of hope of convincing any person you are going to have to stop the Ad Hominem attacks. Otherwise you really are only doing it to denigrate us.
And lastly, I don't agree with your version of "morality." You think simply attacking atheists will make me moral? Fighting is what makes you a better person? Really? Let me put this to you: One of the doctorsI worked with while in Africa would spend 6 months in Africa, and 6 months in the USA. The six months in Africa were spend as I have described it, and I don't need to explain it again. The six months in the USA were spent as a hospitalist at a children's hospital. That means that she would only work on the emergency center children, the ones rushed into the hospital that needed immediate treatment. As soon as they were stable, they would be taken to another doctor to take care of. It is truly harrowing work. She was an atheist. If someone who spends their entire life working on saving lives is not moral, then who is?
Bill, atheists shower the religious with far more worse words. You need to realize what your group is doing by hearing facts. Atheists are actually everything I described – all humans are sinners. We are all sinful, horrible, filthy humans. I'm happy that you met one nice atheistic doctor. But you really don't know her. She is a sinner in ultimate sense, beyond your knowledge. You are her co-sinners, not the Creator nor her Judge. I know many Christian medical workers like her – better ones – but none claims to be good. You need to admit your sinfulness as a fallen creature – a fact -, ask God's forgiveness, receive God's grace and start a new life as His creature in the likeness of Jesus. Think again. Ask God to help you to understand the truth in life.
Bill, this is the diffence between atheists and Christians. Atheists think of human goodness as something they achieved when in fact it's a natural duty and nothing special. Christians go far beyond every human limits and yet acknowledge the imperfection and give thanks to God for His mercy as humble creatures should. Even if you lived like Mother Teresa for all your life, you cannot boast before God. She never did. Right perspective is of Christianity. And because Christians rely on Christ instead of self, the moral strength is permanent.
Atheists do evil because they are evil.
Like what? What evil have we done?
@Bill, questioning like that as if you were innocent is evil and deceptive. Look at your own life. Ask your family members and friends what's wrong with you. You'll have plenty answers – always. Denying God is the greatest evil. You lost every morality at that point. Stop the infanticide and promoting the destructive perversion in your country.
I don't think I am innocent, no one is, but nor am I as corrupt as you make me out to be.
My parents and I disagree on the existence of god, but we do not belittle each other for it and frequently like to have good discussions about it. My friends as well know my views on the matter and those that disagree also like to have healthy arguments about it. Again, without attacking each other.
I haven't lost even a shred of my morality, as I have always viewed a moral choice to be one that minimizes human suffering and maximizes human happiness, though I could not always articulate it so well.
And finally, though I doubt you will read this, here is a link to a study that was done recently (2005). Scroll down to the charts of the data, and select figure 8. It seems pretty apparent that it is the more religious countries that have the biggest problem with abortions, with the US being by far the most religious.
Bill, most nations except N.America and Britain went through and are going through unimaginable pains. Both nations set up orderliness and humaneness for the planet and USA got to be an example. However, you are deteriorating now. You unbelieving Americans can boast your little morality in peace time but in the real crisis, you will know it was a mere ash you only wished to exist. You are already finding the beastliness of amorality or neutrality. I never said USA is worse than others, but USA got to be far better than now in order to retain the hope of mankind.
Those "unimagibnable pains" are barbarism, darkness, oppressions, staunch injust customs that are from unavailabity of Judeo-Christian sanity, Judeo-Christian education and their inputs.
Bill, all your sane morality is from the Bible or Christianity. You don't know it because it's a heritage you got it handed down to you automatically. You have no idea of the horror of the absence of Biblical Christianity. Atheists have no morality on their own. Atheists only taught mankind to treat each other as animals.
Bill, I communicate to atheists in CNN forum in the way you can make sense out of because you understood nothing from the gentle American Christians. Agreements and argumants are not the issues. You should be saddened by the manner your fellow atheists display everywhere if you are truly a moral person. Why can't you see it? A seemingly little nicer atheists like yourself always attack the religious saying we are blah blah blah along with the worst kind of atheists. Read the comments. It's your fellow atheists who come with all those hellish profanities and most des-pi-cable, unimaginably filthy, dirty words. You are not moral, Bill. You just think you are.
And Christians do evil because organized religion is evil.
Tia, you are wrong. Organized religions, not even Christianity, control the chaotic blood-thristiness and insanity of mankind. People do evil using the names of religions. Christianity was abused and misused, but true Christianity made the world civilized and gave true hope and a new life. Most Christian workers and leaders were human saviors indeed as they lived like Jesus did even in the darkest time and situations. Only ignorants talk like you. Atheists did nothing good and did the worst atrocities in the shortest time. You are good with only annihilation of people. Learn the history, please.
@Adelina Clearly you did not look at the figures. The us is by far, in all respects studied, one of the most religious countries in the world, and one of the ones that has the most societal ills. You will find in the data that the less religious you get, the less teenage abortions occur. The UK is one of the less religious countries, and has accordingly less of these problems.
Actually atheists are in large part coming to agree in a humanist morality. If you don't know what humanism is, it is generally what I mentioned earlier. Minimize human suffering, maximize human happiness. I may not agree with your moral code, but I can see you have one. Please do the same for me.
And I have read the comments Adelina. I don't care for dirty words or the like, but the only one I see in the comments relentlessly attacking everyone who disagrees with them with words such as "filthy" and "horrible" is you.
Finally, Adelina, you are committing a bit of a fallacy in your response to Tina. You simply disregard all the evils done in the name of religion, saying that they are not the "true" christianity. However, you wrap all atheists in one big bundle and claim that we are held accountable for every bad atheist that has ever existed. If we are to be held accountable like this, then you should take credit for every atrocity that has been done in the name of Jesus or Yaweh.
Bill, respect of human life has many aspects. What about embryonic stem cell research in UK? Euthanasia? Many more things must be taken into account. Bill, humanism has failed. Two great wars last century in Europe proved it. Those wars meant the defeat of humanism. Europeans proved humanism cannot make man good, but exactly the opposite.
Bill, religions are diferent from atheism. They are positive, especially Christianity. When humans do evil, it is AGAINST the religions; the reason people come back to them. Atheism does evil according to its dogma. When atheists do evil, it is not the abuse of the ideology but the designated conducts. See the difference? You need Jesus; otherwise, you always find yourself deceived into doing atrocities for one reason or another.
Bill, trusting man or self is a horror thing. I think Americans didn't experience it firsthand you are looking for troubles on your own soil. I have no idea what will happen in the future. Before America suffers from real devastation, the world may end. The present moral decadence in USA guarantees she has no bright future. It's a bad sign religious leaders in your land and your parents are being unhappy. I encourage you to study and keep exploring. Just don't put down such great good thing as the Bible or Christianity. You atheists are in a big lost-ness for sure. Study it honestly.
"Atheists do evil because they are evil."
I may be an evil atheist, but at least I'm not a ranting whack-a-doodle.
Somebody needs to take her meds again... or is a magnificent internet troll.
Heaven sent us stupid azzholes like Adelina.
Stop abusing HeavenSent, you stupid atheists.
I'm 45 yrs. old, 4'9" tall, 216lbs, measures 44, 45, 43 and haven't been laid for more than a decade, then I became an Atheist.
I usually cut my finger nails using my teeth. I made them for snacks.
I drink my pee. It's time to party!
My d!ck has cringed like silkworm
I lost my scissors and has ran out of paste, while my cranium is just there to grow me some hair.
They tied my feet using my shoe laces. Help me untie them or I'm dead rat!
Let's all drink (my pee) to that.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.