Saturday, June 18, 2005

The existence of witches does not justify witch-hunting.

Normally, I stay far away from the subject of child abuse accusations. The subject has become so toxic that even people who take up for those they feel have been falsely accused get smeared. One small example, a Christian acquaintance who normally has good common sense called Michael Jackson’s fans a bunch of pedophiles.

Now I’m no Michael Jackson fan. And I hope the friend was engaging in hyperbole. But the point remains that things have gotten so toxic around this subject that even defenders of the accused are considered fair game for vicious attack.

Heck, you don’t even have to be commenting on the subject at all to get attacked as a pedophile nowadays. Evil people will use the worst weapon at hand. And guess what the worst handy weapon today is? So in online arguments, I’ve seen these people attack others as pedophiles with no justification at all. How would you like those sort of bytes about you flying around the internet?

So I’ve passed up any number of opportunities to comment on what I now consider the great American witch hunt.

And it has become a witch hunt. Now note that witch hunts are sometimes provoked by the existence of witches. In the most famous witch hunt of all, the Salem Witch Trials, there is reason to think demonic spiritual activity was going on. (A slave woman was probably practicing the voodoo of her native land.)

But things got out of hand. There was little concern for protecting the innocent. Accusations were as good as convictions. And accusations were used as weapons against people who had nothing to do with witchly activity.

And we see the same thing today surrounding child abuse. There is little concern for protecting the innocent, particularly from the news media (and even from some Catholic bishops, which I will get into). Accusations are treated in a manner that destroys reputations and lives even if they are later found to have little basis. And false accusations are used as weapons. Troubled adolescents and vicious custody disputes are notorious for producing such accusations.

And I might add another trait of witch hunts – punishments are out of line with the offenses. Even if anyone was involved in witchcraft in Salem, did it justify the death penalty? If a barely of age boy has sex with his barely not of age girlfriend, does that justify him being convicted as a sex offender and having his name forever put on public sex offenders lists? (Yes, that happens. And a D. A. friend confided in me that he finds it ridiculous and wrong.)

Are there child molesters out there? Of course. And we should take firm and wise measures to protect children and society from them. Does their existence justify today’s witch hunting?


But the witch-hunting atmosphere has become so toxic, I’ve been hesitant to say anything about it lest I become a target as well. If that goes beyond caution to cowardice, forgive me.

But now I’ve become so provoked by how a probably innocent man has been wronged by the church and the news media that I can’t keep quiet anymore.

to be continued

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