Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Clergy and sexual misconduct

On Monday's post, I asked what would be a natural comparison group for clergy when it comes to sexual misconduct, and, lo and behold, the General Social Survey module that asks about clergy sexual harassment starts off with a question about sexual harassment from workplace bosses and supervisors.

Here are the data about that question and the question about sexual harassment from clergy. They show the percentage of women from different religious traditions who have experienced sexual advances from clergy or their work supervisors.

How would you interpret these data?


Anonymous said...

It would be easier to interpret these if they were normalized by exposure time. How many hours per week do evangelical women spend in the workplace vs. at church? They are over six times as likely to have been sexually harrassed by a work supervisor, but they also might spend six times as many hours at work. The hours ratio matters a lot for the interpretation. Is this available?

Brad Wright said...

No it isn't, though I wonder if the effect would be linear. Would a lecherous supervisor be twice as likely to make a proposition in 200 hours as 100 hours?

Also, I suppose we'd have to standardize how many supervisors vs. clergy, time spent not working vs. not being in a church, etc...

Gets complicated fast, no?

Anonymous said...

Little bit of a misleading comparision because Christians also constitute a percentage of those supervisors.

But on a larger note, maybe your hinting at a bigger idea of over hyping about clergy abuses while non clergy abuses are statically higher.
I smell somewhat of an apples to oranges thing here. No one entrusts their spiritual, moral, and religious understanding to their bosses. Nor do people look to their bosses as examples of moral excellence or in some cases moral authority. My point here is that clergymen are given the moral higher ground, whether they declare it or others do. People hate hypocrisy more than anything else.

I do disagree with reasoning that religion itself (ie belief in supernatural being) is any motivating factor for more being more moral (those words together have a funny phonetic ring). Probably has more to do with attendance with social/civic groups (church attendance) but then again your much more of an expert in such a matter than I could be.

Brad Wright said...

The larger point that I'm raising is whether 3% is a lot, a lit, or about what we'd expect. My sense is that some people use a perfection-standard for judging clergy (which is certainly something to be aimed for), but that means that ever a small number of transgressions = negative hype. People then believe the negative hype and view clergy and the church that way as a whole.

The clergy-supervisor evaluation is apples and oranges, but it's as close as I could come. Can you think of a more accurate comparison?

Anonymous said...

good question. I think comparing supervisors versus clergy is fine but I dont know if any religious evaluation can be made without breaking down the religions of the supervisors.

I do think religious people hold their clergy members to a higher standing than say their bosses. From an outside perspective, the reason I was so wholly disgusted by the recent Catholic troubles was the shuffling of clergymen who were caught rather than exposing them. There seemed to be an effort to cover-up misdeeds and there still is opposition to an all out dredging of the topic. Looking at the 1/33 statistic is not entirely alarming since people in power will always have issues of abuse but I do not see it as an epidemic that crippled the Catholic church.

Consider that an employee has various laws which he/she can appeal to in order to vindicated but there are much trickier obstacles when a religious organization is invovled, particularly the intersection of secular law and religious privacy.

Brad Wright said...

Yes, a study of the religion of supervisors would probably be more informative. Also, you're right at how wrong the cover-up of sexual abuse was.