What the evangelical Christian adoption business wants to keep under the radar
Joyce Kathryn, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (2009), provides some important background to the stance of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and far-right extremists like Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition defending the 10 American Baptists arrested for kidnapping in Haiti in Evangelicals' Adoption BattlecryThe Daily Beast 02/06/10:
The news of an adoption organization driven by missionary zeal surprised many, but it shouldn’t. Although [the Idaho group] New Life’s illegal actions [in Haiti] have been condemned by other religious adoption agencies, their sense of calling fits into a growing movement of American evangelical churches embracing a new orphan theology that urges Christians to see adoption and “orphan-care” as an integral part of their faith—and a means of spreading the gospel. ...
This June, [Russell] Moore [of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary] helped pass a Southern Baptist Convention resolution calling upon all 16 million members of the denomination to prayerfully consider whether or not God was calling them to adopt. With both domestic and international adoption described as almost "contagious" in evangelical churches, with even small congregations boasting dozens of adopted children, it’s evident that more Christians are feeling that "call" — whether from God, or from leaders like Moore.
Kathryn also describes some of the serious ethical problems with the approach being taken by the country's largest Protestant denomination on the issue of adopting children from poor developing countries like Haiti:
In the wake of the New Life fiasco, Russell Moore worried the news would “give a black eye to the orphan-care movement,” as anti-abortion vigilantes had to the pro-life movement—a lawless take on a shared agenda. But there are larger problems with the call for American Christians to adopt en masse. Among them are the widely misunderstood definitions of orphans, which lead to ever-ballooning estimates of children in need of adoption. Another is the strong taint of colonialism in casting American adopters as saviors and focusing on adoption as a solution for impoverished communities. In some countries in recent years, including Liberia and Ethiopia, religious adoption organizations have been singled out for censure by national authorities, accused of using church ties to legitimize unethical practices. [my emphasis]
The link to the Miami Herald's excellent story on the recent history of orphanage and adoption problems that I quoted in an earlier post is still broken as of a few hours ago. (That's actually the main reason I use a practice still uncommon for bloggers of usually citing the title, author, date and publication of articles I link. I discovered early in my blogging experience that if a link is broken, it's much easier to find the story if you have the exact title and the author.) But the story is now available at the Idaho Statesman: Why Haiti is so upset with the American detainees by Scott Hiassen, Kathleen McGrory, Jacqueline Charles and Trenton Daniel, McClatchey Newspapers 02/07/10.
At the front lines of the system are the orphanages, which run the gamut from large, well-equipped institutions with international financing to one-room hovels in a slum where a single woman cares for abandoned children as best she can.
Most of the children in them, the authorities said, are not orphans, but children whose parents are unable to provide for them. To desperate parents, the orphanage is a godsend, a temporary solution to help a child survive a particularly tough economic stretch. Many orphanages offer regular family visiting hours and, when their situations improve, parents are allowed to take their children back home.
But instead of protecting Haiti's most vulnerable population, some orphanages have become tools of exploitation, the authorities fear.
“There are many so-called orphanages that have opened in the last couple of years that are not really orphanages at all,” said Frantz Thermilus, the chief of Haiti’s National Judicial Police. “They are fronts for criminal organizations that take advantage of people who are homeless and hungry. And with the earthquake they see an opportunity to strike in a big way.” [my emphasis]
The Idaho Statesman has new articles related to the case:
At Sunday service, Meridian church members are asked to pray for Haiti detainees by Bethann Stewart 02/07/10. This report says that only five of the 10 arrested in Haiti are actually members of the Central Valley Baptist Church, which sponsored their "mission" and of which far-right activists Patrick Mahoney says he has worked on past projects with members of that congregation in a small Idaho city. I hope the church members also prayed for the well-being of the 33 children whose safety was put at risk by the reckless acts of their "missionaries".
Silsby 'lying,' detainees say 02/07/10. The members of the missionary group kidnapping gang are starting to turn on each other, it seems. They would have been well-advised to work through an established charity or NGO that knew what they were doing:
Meanwhile, the Haitian lawyer for the Baptists charged with child kidnapping tried to bribe their way out of jail and has been fired, the attorney who hired him told The Associated Press Saturday.
Haitian lawyer Edwin Coq denied the allegation. He said the $60,000 he requested from the Americans' families was his fee.
Jorge Puello, the attorney in the neighboring Dominican Republic retained by relatives of the 10 Americans after their arrest last week, told The Associated Press that he fired Coq Friday night. He had hired Coq to represent the detainees at Haitian legal proceedings.
Coq orchestrated "some kind of extortion with government officials" that would have led to the release of nine of the Baptists, Puello charged.
Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times of London reports Clinton brokers deal over Haiti orphan abductions by Tony Allen-Mills 02/07/10. The Times of London's repeated reports of an imminent Israeli nuclear attack on Iran which never happens make me cautious about their diplomatic reports. We'll see what happens on this. Allen-Mills article looks like it may have been based on the reports of Edwin Coq, the Haitian attorney who was just fired from the Americans' case.