Nonprofit Sector is a Powerful Force for Freedom

This past weekend, my fellow Americans and I celebrated our nation’s Independence Day. On July 4, 1776, representatives from the colonies gathered in Philadelphia to declare independence from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence, in part, states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Around the world where democracies have flourished, we see a robust nonprofit sector. Under dictatorial regimes, charities are either not permitted to exist, operate under government control, or function underground.

Independence Hall by Michael RosenDemocracy and the right to vote are not the same thing. While voting is certainly an essential element of a democracy, the term means so much more. Among other things, true democracies maintain an independent judiciary, ensure the rights of all citizens, and protect the most vulnerable members of society.

Charities contribute to freedom by diffusing power throughout society, encouraging expression, securing individual rights, meeting unmet needs, and in many other ways.

Brazil provides a good example of what I mean. When Brazil ended military rule and adopted a democratic system, the government maintained central control and limited the formation of charities. That democratic experiment ended relatively quickly with another military coup. When Brazil once again ended military rule, the new democratically elected government allowed the formation of charities and worked cooperatively with the sector.

Today, Brazil has a robust democracy, a reasonably healthy economy, and an effective nonprofit sector. Charities are indeed an essential part of civil society. You can read my article “Brazil: Two Countries Becoming One” by clicking here.

In the USA, charities are also an essential component of civil society. One of my favorite charities is the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance. PCA brings justice and healing to the victims of child sex abuse, protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.

Unfortunately, much more needs to be done to free children from the oppression of sexual abuse. In America, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused. Sexual abuse knows no racial, ethnic, religious, geographic, or economic boundaries. Sadly, though, many people choose to ignore the problem or rationalize it away rather than engaging to protect our nation’s vulnerable young ones.

When I served on a jury hearing a child sex abuse case, one of my fellow jurors had a tough time voting to convict. He stated, “Well, children lie.” This echoed a thought shared by many in our country. Over the years, the media have reported on instances where it appeared that children did indeed lie about sexual abuse.

In 1984, allegations of sexual abuse were made about the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California. After a thorough investigation, no charges were ever filed. Since then, many have come to believe that the McMartin case, and other similar cases, were nothing more than witch-hunts revealing that children are “highly suggestible” and that society is “hysterical” when it comes to the issue.

Well, now a compelling new book challenges those beliefs and highlights the danger to children. The Witch-Hunt Narrative was written by Ross E. Cheit, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Brown University.

In his book, Cheit examines primary sources to challenge some of the conventional thinking about some notorious cases. His research reveals “a history of minimizing and denying abuse, and a surprisingly lenient response to many child molesters.” Even today, he finds, “There are pockets of overreaction to sexual abuse in a sea of under-reaction. … There are still unjustified attacks on the credibility of children and on child-abuse professions, from forensic interviewers to pediatric child-abuse specialists.”

Cheit’s thorough research shows that child sex abuse remains a horrible problem that we all must work to address. While a few false reports over the years have occurred, we must not allow such reports to be blown out of proportion. We must not allow such reports to lull us into a false sense of security. We cannot allow such reports to lead us not to act.

Child sex abuse is a very real problem. Fortunately, Child Advocacy Centers, such as PCA, exist throughout the nation to free children from the horrors of child sex abuse. However, these charities cannot do the work alone. Here are some things you can do to protect children:

The American Independence Day celebrates our break from tyranny and our embrace of life, liberty, and the pursuit happiness. Our robust nonprofit sector helps ensure our nation’s democracy and our freedoms. While American society is far from ideal, let’s keep working toward the ideal. Let’s keep working with and supporting our charities that help ensure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In addition, let’s vow to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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