I wanted to let you all know I recently accepted a position on the Board of Advisors for a really wonderful organization called The Child-Friendly Faith Project. The group was founded by Janet Heimlich, author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment.
The Child-Friendly Faith Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) public charity that educates the public about the impact that religious, spiritual, and cultural beliefs and practices have on children in the United States and around the world.
The CFFP does not promote or denigrate any particular religion or cultural group. Rather, it exposes harmful religious and cultural teachings and practices that are abusive or neglectful and promotes those that enhance healthy child development.
In short, parents have the right to raise kids as they wish, but their religious beliefs should not in any way physically or psychologically harm their children. That means speaking out against faith-healing-related medical neglect, physically abusive corporal punishment justified as “biblical chastisement,” unhealthy ritualistic fasting, other behaviors that violate child welfare laws, etc. It also means letting parents know how to minimize the negative impacts of their cultural or religious rituals. The CFFP promotes the idea that adults should scrutinize their beliefs and practices before teaching them to children.
I know there are people out there who would argue that teaching Young Earth Creationism (or any other wacky religious belief) is a form of mental child abuse, and we don’t discount that. The CFFP opposes exploiting, isolating, and indoctrinating children with a narrow world view. A child-friendly faith should encourage the intellectual autonomy of children, encouraging them to ask questions and express doubt.
If all of this is something you can get behind, there’s a conference in Austin, Texas scheduled for this November. And, of course, I’ll post updates to what the group is doing as it grows and develops. For now, I would encourage you to just check out the site and see what we’re all about.