Thoughts on Child Protection Legislation in Ireland

[BBC] via [Boing Boing]
I'm not going to summarize the article above. That's been done enough. Just read it, poke around the issue for a while, then come back and read what I have to say.

This is a story where I'd usually feel justified shaking my head, having a cynical little laugh for myself and quietly walking away without further thought. This is (as the Primate says) an issue about the role of religion in a free society, and more importantly, when religion gets to exempt itself where a secular organization cannot.
I'll be upfront: I think that, in general, religious organizations should get no better treatment than a comparable secular non-profit, and often times they should be treated much like for-profit corporations, especially when it comes to potentially illegal activity they may engage in.
I think that the ONLY situation in which it would be OK to exempt confessions (or any other similar religious ritual with as potentially severe secular repercussions) from the scrutiny of normal secular law (specifically laws concerned with issues like violent crime or child abuse) is if they are shown by a properly conducted, double blind trial to reduce repeat offenses when compared to secular methods and punishments.
Given that this study would be difficult (if not just outright impossible) to conduct correctly, and the Church is about as likely to agree to engage in it as it is to reverse its stance on condoms, I think we ought to legislate on the null hypothesis until the Church sees fit to disprove it and the obvious null hypothesis is that confession is no more effective than taking to a secular counselor.
In short, I think the C. Church is in the wrong here. I don't care that this comes in the wake of a child abuse scandal in Ireland, and I hope I would say the same things if the C. Church had as impeccable a record in the child abuse department as it does in other areas.
Religious exemption IS an very important part of a free society. The Primate is dead on there. Unfortunately protecting citizens from child abuse is more important role of government in my mind.
On a related issue, I'm proud to say that my home state, Oregon, recently passed a bill explicitly removing exemption in cases where simple medical treatment could save children. I wish that parents letting their children die of treatable problems like Diabetes and Appendicitis for religious reasons was a non-issue. I wish I could write this both the Oregon bill and Ireland's policy off as political jousting directed at restricting religious freedom. I can't, because children die of religious ignorance all the time[whatstheharm.net - Very incomplete list, some entries are not due to medical ignorance.]. I can't dismiss the importance of this policy in Ireland because the Church's inaction in these cases has the potential to cause enormous harm to children (Again, I would be more than happy to revise my opinion here, of course, if the Church can show that Confession does a better job than Secular methods in a controlled trial.). That is a crime in the most basic sense of the word.
With all that in mind, there are some amazing things happening here at MIT. Instead of ranting in my dorm room, I'm going to go out and get involved in some of them. Later.

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