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This week’s bulletin on faith, sex, purity culture: Southern Baptist leaders disappoint survivors, STIs soar in U.S.

There’s never a dull moment when it comes to the intersection of religion and sex in America. Here are a few stories that stood out this week. If you have a story about purity culture or how faith and sex intersect, email me at abeahm@reckonmedia.com.

This week we’ve got updates on the Southern Baptist Convention, more news about rising rates of preventable STIs in the South, some old business and a podcast recommendation. Let’s dive in:

Announcements: SBC executive committee holds Fall meeting, survivors left disappointed

Religion has been imposing rules and regulations on sexual expression since the beginning of time, and religious leaders have had their fair share of sex abuse scandals in recent decades.

One of the largest religious sex abuse scandals in recent times involves the Southern Baptist Convention’s efforts to silence people who survived sexual assault in the church and its leaders’ mishandling sex abuse investigations.

One month after leaders announced the church is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, the executive committee held its fall meeting —the first opportunity to implement reforms since the end of the 2022 annual meeting in Anaheim, California.

However, survivors called the tone of the meeting disappointing, with many hoping the leaders of the largest protestant denomination in America would respond to survivors’ requests for clarity and action.

The committee established a “Caring Well Sunday” to be observed the last Sunday of September each year. The day was established to be a day where Baptists can learn more about abuse and how to prevent abuse in their churches.

One bright spot, survivors noted included the hiring of Rachel Denhollander, a survivor and advocate who has been openly discussing abuse within the SBC for years.

Church leaders plan to hire a firm to create a database of ministers credibly accused of sexual assault (SBC leaders have yet to define “credibly accused”) and a firm that can candle new reports of sexual abuse and connect survivors with law enforcement.

Selected readings: New STI infections are on the rise

New cases of sexually transmitted infections in America reached a new high of 2.5 million cases, according to 2021 preliminary data from the CDC. This figure beats out 2020′s record-setting number of 2.4 million in 2020.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • New syphilis infections increased 26 percent, with an alarming increase in cases of congenital syphilis, which increased 24 percent (syphilis that’s pass from a mother to baby).
  • Gonorrhea infections increased 2.8 percent
  • Chlamydia infections increased 3 percent
  • HIV rates increased 16 percent

Dr. Leandro Mena of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said America needs to work to expand access to STD testing and education, including education about condom use and other ways to prevent the spread of STDs.

“It is imperative that we ... work to rebuild, innovate, and expand (STD) prevention in the U.S.,” said.

Officials also blamed the increased transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C on increased syringe sharing and drug use that ballooned during the pandemic.

Last week, a Texas judge ruled employers were not required to pay for PrEP, a drug that can prevent HIV infections in high-risk individuals, if it violated the employer’s religious beliefs. (Texas woke up and chose violence against pregnant people, sexual assault survivors and LGBTQ+ people).

Testimony:

Listen to this episode of Born to be Bad with special guests from Into Account, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping survivors of sexual violence and spiritual abuse within religious groups through the process of reporting their abuse, investigations, media coverage and public storytelling.

This episode goes deep into the work Into Account does to support survivors and hold religious institutions accountable. Their work is “survivor-centered” and focused on supporting the needs of survivors and helping them through the process of seeking justice.

“When we say survivor-centered, what we mean is that the way forward, decisions, next steps, processes, are based fundamentally in mindfulness for what will be just, and healthy, and good for the person who was most directly harmed, which in situations of abuse are the survivors,” said Stephanie Krehbiel, Executive Director and co-founder of Into Account.

Old business:

If you missed my reporting on Pew Research Center’s latest report on the (potential) future of Christianity in America, check it out! TL;DR – Christianity is on track to lose its majority hold by as early as 2045.

Also, conservative talk show host Matt Walsh released his “investigation” targeting the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Clinic for Transgender Health and its gender-affirming treatment for transgender youth. Now, the TN GOP says it will create a bill to make providing minors gender-affirming treatment illegal. The medical community and LGBTQ community in Nashville both reject these efforts to criminalize gender-affirming treatments.

Volunteer (your thoughts) opportunity: Have you used content-monitoring software?

This story in Wired discussed content-monitoring apps promoted by churches. The article shares the story of one man who signed up for Covenant Eyes, a content-monitoring software, on the advice of his pastors at Gracepoint Church, and soon began receiving accusatory emails from this pastors based on his web activity.

“I wouldn’t quite call it spyware,” says a former member of Gracepoint who was asked to use Covenant Eyes and spoke on the condition of anonymity, due to privacy concerns. “It’s more like ‘shameware,’ and it’s just another way the church controls you.”

Have you ever used this type of software? How do you feel about your pastor seeing all of your web browsing activity? Send me your hottakes on twitter @_AnnaBeahm or email me at abeahm@reckonmedia.com.

Anna Beahm

Anna Beahm | abeahm@reckonmedia.com

I report on the intersection of religion and sexuality in America. Follow me on Twitter @_AnnaBeahm

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