Child Abuse

Religious Freedom Is Not An Excuse For Child Abuse

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upset child stop child abuseAn Illinois mom lost custody of her kids today because the family attended a controversial church that allegedly held naked rituals and engaged in other sketchy and outright abusive behavior. According to The Chicago Tribune, the accusations came to light during a heated custody battle, and centered on a ritual called “light therapy’ performed by “Pastor” Philip Livingston. The ritual, according to court records, involved female followers getting naked in one-on-one sessions and genital touching, all in the name of “spiritual guidance.” Even with this damning evidence, there are folks upset because this mom’s “religious freedom” is being impeded. Seriously.

religious freedom comment 4 religious freedom comment 3

Sorry, but if you ask me, religious freedom ends when it entails kids being abused. Period.

From The Chicago Tribune:

“At issue in the custody case was the involvement of the children in the ritual. One former follower testified she saw the mother and two of her female children, then ages 13 and 10, naked in Livingston’s home, and that Livingston asked her to groom one of the children for the ritual. Livingston, the mother and others insisted only consenting adults were involved. A criminal investigation was launched, but no charges were filed.”

Charges may not have been filed, but a Kane County judge ruled that Livingston was “not believable” and that the evidence suggests “knowing and reckless conduct which creates an immediate risk of physical harm” to the kids involved. That judge gave full custody of the kids to the father, and prosecutors later moved to make them wards of the state, which in essence “cemented the father’s custody of the children while requiring they be kept away from the church and its members.”

All of this says to me that, while they couldn’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, some form of abuse most likely occurred. Of course the mother appealed this ruling, but a three judge appellate panel also ruled against her and had some choice words to say about her parenting:

“When a parent puts his/her children in a social setting with naked adults, and encourages his (or her) daughter to receive therapy from a man who sometimes, in the course of therapy, digitally penetrates the vaginas of the recipients of his therapy, the evidence sufficiently supports a finding that the parent exposed his/her children to an injurious environment.”

Somebody gives these guys an “Understatement of the Year Award.” I don’t care what religion you are, or what your beliefs are, there is almost no reason for your children to be naked at church (infant baptism being an obvious exception). And even if, as the mother claims, the kids weren’t naked themselves, this is an inappropriate atmosphere for them. How no one realized this guy was a con-man pervert is beyond me. This should be common sense for any parent, and if it’s not, then you shouldn’t be parenting.

(Photo: Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock)


  1. Rachel Sea

    July 25, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I don’t believe cults get protected status, but regardless, religious freedom is a terrible excuse for a lot of things. To my interpretation of Jefferson’s papers, one person’s religious freedom ends where another person’s autonomy begins.

    • sonatona10

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  2. Jessifer

    July 25, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    I propose we start a religion called the “Church of Anti-Pedophiles”, where part of our ritual is to go door to door, tie up all the pedophiles, castrate them, and dance in a circle around them while watching them writhe in pain. Because, you know, religious freedom and all.×540/fit/hostedimages/1379793435/577650.jpg

    • Joye77

      July 25, 2014 at 8:45 pm

      Tell me where to sign up!

  3. JJ

    July 25, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Ugh there is times I hate that religious freedom bull shit excuse. Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of times it’s fine and no one is doing anything illegal or harmful. But there is times like this article to and people refusing to get their kids medical treatment or blood transfusions that would fix their ailments because its their god’s will that put their child there. And if the child is meant to live according to them then he will heal them with prayer only. Fuck off. I’m with you 100% if a kid is in danger be it from naked paedophile cult leaders or failure to take a child to the hospital emergency room when they are in need of help then people can take their “religious freedom” excuse and shove it up where the sun don’t shine.

    • Joye77

      July 25, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      How is it that these women let this guy digitally penetrate them in these rituals? What is wrong with people? So many questions. Sad that these crazy people start these cults and people actually follow them. Are they so desperate to belong somewhere that they will follow someone that is clearly not playing with a full deck?

  4. keelhaulrose

    July 25, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    I live about two miles from that “church”. I heard rumors people got naked there, I didn’t think they involved children.
    I suddenly have pressing business.
    Send bail money.

    • Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      July 25, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      Kickstarter in process.

    • guest

      July 25, 2014 at 11:32 pm

      Just tell me where to send it! I can’t stop thinking about these two girls and the emotions they must have been feeling. Humiliated, ashamed, who knows what else. And their own mother sitting in another room letting this man touch them in such a demeaning and just…….bad, bad way. It makes me want to just hug them forever and never let anything bad happen to them again. It’s truly heartbreaking.

    • Jezebeelzebub

      July 25, 2014 at 11:42 pm

      I’ll put up my house.

  5. tk88

    July 25, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Religious freedom is no excuse for anything but practicing your own beliefs yourself, without hurting anyone else or breaking any laws. If you hurt someone else or force your beliefs on someone else (INCLUDING kids) then you’re impeding on THEIR rights to religious freedom. I hate people who use religion as an excuse to hurt children. The people I know who’ve been ritualistically abused and tortured often mention a “church” or “religious” aspect of it involved. I have a perfect solution for the child abusers who insist they’re just doing it in name of “religion”–crucify them.

  6. simpleton

    July 25, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Okay, first, what happened in this situation was child abuse, absolutely. Full stop. However, in regards to your article, nudity in religious rituals is a meaningful part of my religion and many people choose to have both themselves and their children (if they choose) nude or “skyclad” for rituals. You basically just called every person who takes their children to nudist resorts or clothing-optional locations child abusers. Might want to rethink that statement.

    • Katherine Handcock

      July 25, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      Very good point! Nudity in and of itself has its place in many rituals. It’s the context of this nudity that’s the issue.

    • simpleton

      July 25, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Thank you. In this case, clearly, the context was insidious. However, the idea that “there is almost no reason for your children to be naked at church” (or in our case, a bonfire) is a bigoted statement

    • AugustW

      July 26, 2014 at 11:35 am

      I didn’t take the nudity part as abuse, I took the sentence about the grown man digitally penetrating vaginas to be the abuse part.

  7. Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

    July 25, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Wow…just wow. I can’t even.

  8. Warren Pacholzuk

    July 25, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    And of course the pissed off spouse seeking custody and the resulting child support, is telling the truth, and being unbiased.

    • keelhaulrose

      July 26, 2014 at 12:43 am

      The church has a rich history of complaints about the “prayer service”. That’s been common knowledge in our area for years. It’s run by an un-ordained liar who was kicked out of a giant church because of his odd beliefs, and his neighbors have been complaining about his sexual harassment for years. Not only that, but the mother ADMITS what was accused actually went on in her “prayer sessions”, and it only stopped when she said the leader’s body reminded her of a walrus. She had complained several times she was uncomfortable with the nudity and touching, he claimed it was sin trying to take over her, so she kept going. Does that really sound like a woman with impeccable judgement and observational skills?
      The kids in question are ten and thirteen. I sincerely doubt they weren’t asked a question or two.
      From what I understand mom either doesn’t work, or has minimal employment. I doubt she’s providing a financial windfall in child support.

    • JenH1986

      July 26, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      Once they become wards of the state wouldn’t support stop anyway? Since they went to a parent and not foster care? (Not that foster care is a boon either)

    • guest

      July 26, 2014 at 6:03 am

      You really think this would make it’s way through the court system without any evidence whatsoever? What exactly is it that you object to, or are you being your usual argumentative self? I would think from your past comments that you would be happy a man won this case, but then again I think you just like to start shit and argue.

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      July 28, 2014 at 12:03 am

      guest, until you actually identify yourself, and stop hiding behind “guest”, shut the hell up.

  9. WhoremonalCrazyLotusSlugalo

    July 26, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Nudity and exposing ones genitals, in my opinion, should be a choice we make with full knowledge and comprehension of the potential consequences. Having children touch each other’s genitals… that is sexual abuse of a child regardless of the context. If your faith requires children to expose themselves in front of adults…I have issues. I just do. If that makes me closed minded or “bigoted”, so be it. I know what it’s like to be a child who was abused sexually by one who was supposed to protect me. There were people, in my own community that were guilty of using faith to manipulate children.

    I am sorry of this perspective offends anyone.

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  11. ChopChick

    July 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Holy shit.

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