Congress pass a Child Rights Act-Abused kids in strict religions shouldn't be #invisible.

Congress pass a Child Rights Act-Abused kids in strict religions shouldn't be #invisible.

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Misty Griffin started this petition to President Joseph R. Biden and


  • Congress- Pass a Child Rights Act. In my Amish community contacting law enforcement for any reason was seriously frowned upon and anyone who did so could face serious repercussions from church leadership. Child sexual abuse was rampant and children were not removed from abusive homes. The predator was merely shunned for six weeks. There are many strict churches/religions with similar practices in the U.S.A. Religious rights should not outweigh the human rights of the children. We need better protections in place for all children in the U.S.A. Children need established rights that cannot be overruled by adults. 
  • At a minimum these rights need to include age appropriate sexual abuse prevention education (safe touch/bad touch). According to the CDC, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. This is an epidemic of staggering proportions.
  • In addition all school teachers whether licensed or not (Amish, Mennonite and other religious school teachers are not licensed and are not required to take mandated reporter training) need to be trained mandated reporters who are held accountable to report suspected child abuse. Same needs to apply to homeschoolers. Every teacher in the U.S.A should be a trained mandated reporter and any religious leaders who tries to interfere with someone reporting a crime should face criminal charges.                 
  • There must be a federal minimum standard of safety and rights for all children in the U.S.A. In addition we must teach children age appropriate sexual abuse prevention education and have a trained mandated reporter in their orbit if we ever hope to get a handle on child sexual abuse in this country. We cannot begin to stamp out this epidemic until we teach children what to watch for and what to do if they experience it. It seems criminal to just let children walk into it blindly. 
  • President Biden- Send the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to the Senate for ratification.
  • Senate- Ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.S.A is the only country in the United Nations not to have ratified it. In 2015 Somalia became the 196th country in the UN to ratify it.  

United States Congress: In 1974, Congress passed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), making it mandatory for people in certain professions to report suspected child abuse and neglect. All but three states currently have mandated reporting laws. 

In the decades since, nurses, teachers, doctors, and other professionals have reported countless cases of child abuse, and so many children have been rescued. But what about children who attend private schools where the teachers are not licensed and have no mandated reporter training? Children who are homeschooled? Children who rarely are exposed to modern medical care, do not attend public daycare, etc.?

These children continue to be left in the lurch and in many cases literally have no one to report abuse for them. A very large percentage of these children live in strict religious communities or organizations that are sheltered away from the rest of the world.

Approximately 5.7 million children in the United States attend private schools; 78 percent of private schools are religious-based approx. 4.4 million children.

Some churches/religions/organizations do not believe in reporting child abuse or child sexual assault to the authorities, and so they don't. Some of these children literally have no safe person to tell.

To outsiders, these children are mere extensions of their parents' religion or organization; they are faceless, have no identity, and they are #invisible to the outside world. This is a realm where the law does not exist and is reluctant to go. Freedom of religion is used as an impenetrable wall that few attempt to climb over. 

But what about the children's human rights? 

Amish, conservative Mennonite, and other strict religious schools are staffed with unlicensed teachers who are not required to take mandated reporter training.

As a young Amish woman I witnessed abuse first hand. I knew parents, teachers, and church leadership who knew about the abuse and did nothing. The strongest punishment anyone ever received was 6 weeks of shunning for raping, molesting, and severely physically abusing entire families of children. The children in my community had no one, literally no one.

Religions like the Amish are not sovereign nations. They must be subject to and held accountable to the laws of the United States. At a minimum, the children in these communities deserve basic humane treatment and a government that ensures they receive it. 

In order to combat this very serious issue, congress needs to pass a Child Rights Act that would at a minimum require the following to keep all kids safe:

-Every teacher in the United States must take mandated reporter training. Unlicensed teachers must take the same mandated reporter classes that licensed teachers take. It is an online class, and it takes approx. 7 hrs. Through this certificate, they become mandated reporters and are held accountable for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect.  

-Teachers must be of legal age, 18 or older (Amish can start teaching at 15 or 16).

-All schools in the United States, including private schools, must teach Erin’s Law (a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program that teaches: Students in grades Pre-K-12th grade age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse and tell a trusted adult). It can be provided in booklet form for parochial schools that do not use video.

-Homeschoolers must take the same mandated reporter training and become mandated reporters. They must also teach Erin’s law.

The above actions must be enacted on the federal level to create real change and protect children. This cannot be left up to individual states. It must be standardized. Every state, every school, every child, no exceptions or loopholes.

Children are a vulnerable population and their basic human rights are generally overridden by their parents religious freedom and parental rights. The USA needs a Child Rights Act that clearly states what rights children are entitled to and what their parents may not override in the name of religious or parental freedom.

Children are deserving of basic human rights just like adults. At the very least they deserve to have someone in their orbit who is trained to report suspected abuse for them and they deserve to be taught sexual abuse prevention education. Right now all but three states have some form of mandated reporting laws but they are only partially enforced. Erin's law is largely non funded and not enforced even in all public schools. These things must be standardized at a federal level and above all enforced for child safety.

President Biden: On behalf of America’s children, send the Convention on the Child's Rights to the Senate for ratification. It is a sad reality that the United States of America is the only country in the UN not to have ratified (make officially valid) it.

Ratifying the UN Rights of the child would go a long way in combating child abuse here in the United States. Child abuse -breaking a child's will is literally preached from the pulpit and published in child-rearing books here in the USA. 

Breaking a child's will can mean a few hard swats on the bottom or lead to hours-long sessions of “discipline” where a child can be subjected to 50-100 or more blows. Entire churches have adopted the idea of “breaking a child's will,'' and religious leaders preach it to their congregations. Some instruct parents to start breaking the will at 3-6 months old. 

Very small children and babies have literally been spanked to death right here in the United States because religious leaders are not confronted and told they can not preach child abuse from the pulpit; their congregations are not told that if they do indeed carry out these horrific acts of abuse, they will be subject to prosecution. 

Children are left in these situations; little children screaming in excruciating pain, sometimes several times a day.

If any adult were subjected to this kind of treatment it would be considered torture. Why do we allow child torture in this country? And yes, it is allowed because people know it's happening.

Time and again, teenagers and adults have come out of ultra-strict religions/organizations and recounted the horrors they have endured to news orgs and documentary filmmakers, and yet the government does not step in. It is time that the United States stands up and says enough.

United States Senate: Show the world the United States takes a firm stance against child abuse and ratify the UN Convention on the Child's Rights. Let the world know that we the people of the United States of America value our children, our future generation, and our greatest resource.

To everyone reading this: Freedom of religion or any other personal freedom/ rights, including parental rights, should not allow one to exploit, abuse, threaten, silence, conceal crimes, or knowingly put others in harm's way. But as it stands now, that is exactly what is happening, and it’s happening to small innocent children.

Teaching children age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention education (Erin’s law) should be the right of every child. Why do we allow it to be kept secret from them and let them walk into it head-on? Are we not all accountable for doing nothing to stop abuse that we know, based on current statistics will affect at least 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys?

Last but not least, children should not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment any more than adults should. Beating a child repeatedly and severely, like in cases of breaking the will, is just that, cruel and unusual punishment.

In the United States spanking is defined as being abusive when it leaves, bruises, scratches or is considered unreasonable and excessive. Having this on the books is a great guideline but if it is not enforced then it is of little consequence.

As stated above, entire churches here in the United States adhere to the doctrine of breaking a child's will. The very mindset behind breaking the will is excessive and cruel. Breaking the will tactics can include severe beatings, withholding food and water, imprisonment and working the child to the point of extreme physical exhaustion. 

If we, the people of the United States of America, agree that children are deserving of basic human rights, then we must put measures in place and enforce those rights for every child. Children deserve a Child Rights Act that clearly states their rights as human beings. 

Where does freedom of religion end and human rights begin?

America, we can do better!


Misty Griffin- Registered Nurse, Author of Tears of the Silenced, Consulting Producer on the docu-series Sins of the Amish (website )






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