Calling practices like segregating kids into faith schools child abuse is logically sound. It's an abuse of the children's right of association, religious freedom and sound education, but it is memetically flawed. The term child abuse conjures in people's mind violent crime, the rape of children, and so this use of the term is jarring and does not stick.
So, I started thinking about the use of the term in the context of the terrible problem in Australia with chaplains in public schools.
Some of the argument against chaplains has been about the potential for molestation, similar to the concerns about priests following the recent revelations. I know of at least one example where a chaplain was found to be having an inappropriate association with one of her students. When the supporters of chaplaincy say "they are such nice people" I cringe a little. First of all so are teachers and psychologists, who are trained and supervised by government regulators because they must deal with students professionally and appropriately. Worse still, often paedophiles are thought to be "nice people" before their crimes are uncovered.
However, this concern, although real, does not address the core problem of chaplains at school. The concern is that they are indoctrinating our children into christianity, often by stealth, handing them over to the true indoctrinators in the "Shine" program for example. This concern is about a behaviour that is like sexual predation in some ways, but it would be a false equivalence. A new term is needed instead. That term is "religious predator".
Sexual predator - uses a child's body and emotions for sexual gratification Religious predator - uses a child's mind and emotions for religious conversion
A religious predator is not a person dealing with adults. Adults can take care of themselves. They are also not a person teaching children about religions, without structuring the information to indoctrinate the children, attempting to proselytise or groom for conversion by others. They are also not a person answering questions about their personal beliefs without including any attempt at indoctrination.
A religious predator is a person who attempts to instil in children a religious belief, who cuts them off from other ways of thinking, and attempts to suppress or mislead their critical faculties, or a person who grooms them for others who will try to perform these tasks, or a person who intentionally enables religious predation.
In Australia we have two government sponsored forms of religious predator, chaplains and special religious education teachers. They are in our schools at the governments behest. In the case of chaplains with government funding.
There are rules that vaguely attempt to require that these predators only deal with those children that have parental consent, and that attempt to negate predatory behaviour. My encounters with people managing S.R.E. and chaplains have shown that they profess "if we can't do these things then what would be the point of having these chaplains or teachers? Obviously the rules are wrong". There are many, many situations where the system is manipulated to get at the children that would not normally have parental consent, such as requiring 'opt-out' (active parental dis-consent), or by creating loaded permission forms that require consenting to the chaplains if the kids are to participate in certain school activities. The religious predators groom the children in preparation for activities outside the school jurisdiction such as camps and "personal development" programs like the Scripture Union's Shine program and Adventure Camps, where other religious predators can work on the children, unfettered by the education system's already weak rules.
The teachers, school principals and regional directors that allow this are not all religious predators themselves, but many that I have encountered are, and consider the system a "good thing". They support the predatory behaviour and manipulations of the system directly. The employing body for chaplains in Queensland, The Scripture Union, is a body with religious predation as its main theme.
To change things in Australia (and elsewhere) we need teachers, principles, and regional directors who stand up and say "I'm not a religious predator and I think its wrong". They then have to at least enforce the weak rules in place, as well as lobbying for stronger rules or the complete removal of these predatory positions from our schools. We need members of the government likewise to stand up and say they do not support religious predators and to change the rules to rid us of these opportunities for religious predators within our school system.
Once you have grasped the meaning of the term religious predator you will find it opens up a whole new way of seeing things. I think the term is infectious and you should pass it on.