Within the past couple of hours, Religion News Service has posted an article titled “Reform movement publishes extensive report on sexual misconduct in its youth programs.” The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) commissioned an outside law firm to investigate sexual misconduct in their movement’s youth programs and summer camps over the past half century. Then URJ published the report in its entirety, with no redactions whatsoever, on their website.
I’m impressed that URJ has both commissioned this investigation, and that they’re being completely open and transparent about the results. Really impressed. Really, really impressed. Mind you, this investigation didn’t extend to individual congregations; that would have been a much more difficult task. Nevertheless, by commissioning this investigation, the URJ has set the standard for individual congregations.
It’s time for the Unitarian Universalist Association to commission a similar investigation into our denominational youth ministries. I was very active in denominational youth activities in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and I heard enough stories back then to make me think that an investigation would turn up more sexual misconduct than anyone would feel comfortable with.
If the UUA were to commission a law firm to carry out this kind of investigation, what should we look for? We should look for exactly what the URJ looked for: sexual misconduct by adults (anyone over age 18) against minors (anyone under age 18); sexual misconduct between minors; and sexual misconduct between adults at youth activities. As I look back 50 years to 1972, at a minimum the following programs should be investigated: “ConCon,” the former continental youth conference; district youth conferences; and any other programs or summer camps run by Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) or its successor Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU).
The UUA doesn’t have a great track record of investigating and publicly admitting the sexual misconduct that’s happened in our denomination. This is a grand opportunity for us to do the right thing. I hope our denominational leaders will follow the shining lead of the Reform Jews.