England: The headline of an article on the BBC News website today caused a raised eyebrow at Prattle Towers:
The government has launched an action plan to tackle child abuse linked to witchcraft or religion in England.
So, who is to be the victim of a moral panic this time? Are the fundies attacking Neopagans again? No, but the potential for vilification of an entire minority group is clear. This time, I fear what will happen when the Daily Mail picks up the story, which is about a tiny number of cases among communities of more recent African origin than the majority:
Scotland Yard says it has conducted 83 investigations into faith-based child abuse in the past decade - among them Kristy Bamu, who was murdered aged 15 in 2010, Victoria Climbie who was eight when she was murdered in 2000 and the headless torso of "Adam", a five or six-year-old boy, which was found in the Thames in 2001.
Ministers are concerned that although the investigations number just a few dozen, other abuse is going on, "under-reported and misunderstood".
Fortunately, the government's "plan" seems to involve recognition of the efforts already being made by community groups and religious leaders, rather than the simultaneous nagging of the affected communities into apathy, and vilification of same as we've seen in the approach to extremist Islamist bampots.
These efforts included Channel 4 documentaries highlighting the problem, most recently in 2010.
The programme explores several churches where child “deliverance” takes place, using undercover footage. A young journalist named Juliana Oladipo agreed to pose as a difficult teenager being brought to church by her mother; in each case witchcraft is diagnosed as the problem, and aggressive exorcism prescribed as the cure.
Some of the fraudulent preachers were after more than just money. One of them demanded sex from a young woman, 21 times, to "cure" her of her witchcraft.
Witchcraft-based child abuse: Action plan launched—BBC News, 14 August 2012; Documentary Shows Child-Witch Stigmatisation Still Occurring in UK Churches, Bartholomew's Notes on Religion, 26 July 2010.