Dawkins to moderate Religious Child Abuse Panel

May 8, 2013

"Nobody would seriously describe a tiny child as a 'Marxist child' or an 'Anarchist child' or a 'Post-modernist child'. Yet children are routinely labeled with the religion of their parents. We need to encourage people to think carefully before labeling any child too young to know their own opinions, and our adverts will help to do that." – Richard Dawkins

At the American Humanist Association conference in San Diego, on Saturday June 1 at 9am, Richard Dawkins will moderate a panel entitled “Religious Fundamentalism & The Abuse of Children.” (Register here: http://ahacon13.eventbrite.com)  This has long been an area of primary concern for Richard Dawkins.

I come to the same focus from a different angle. Shortly after law school, I served as an Assistant Attorney General in my home state handling child protection cases.  This motivated me to become very involved in children’s advocacy during my ten years in the Maine legislature.  It is disheartening how often religion is used as a justification for policies that would never be acceptable – but for the imprimatur of religion.

Janet Heimlich approached me about doing a panel on this topic at the last American Humanist Association convention.  Janet is author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, which examines religiously-motivated child abuse and neglect. Ms. Heimlich also heads the Child-Friendly Faith Project, a nonprofit organization that educates the public about the impact that belief and faith practices have on children in America.

Also participating in the panel will be Katherine Stewart, author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children. She started her career in journalism working for investigative reporter at The Village Voice and has written for many publications.

I had the opportunity when starting at the Richard Dawkins Foundation to interview Liz Heywood who suffered horribly as a child in a faith-healing home. She will recount some of her experiences on the panel as well.

My book recounts ten areas of American public policy in which there exists religious bias — then sets out a specific strategic plan to organize for a secular America.  Perhaps the most wrenching (and one of the least known) of these ten topics is religious bias in numerous areas of children’s law. I will serve on the panel as well.

It is almost cliché to say “Let’s do it for the children” but, in this panel, we will face the wrenching reality of what has been done to the children in the name of religion.  It is a far more wide-spread and ugly problem than most Americans realize.  With the sponsorship of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science and the American Humanist Association we will shine a light on this serious widespread American injustice.

Sean Faircloth is Dir. of Strategy & Policy at the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science.  His book, Attack of the Theocrats, How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do AboutItoffers a specific plan for activists to re-secularize America. Faircloth served ten years in the Maine legislature, his last term as Majority Whip.


Written By: Sean Faircloth
continue to source article at

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.