These leaders and educators are now afraid to show affection toward the children they take under their wing. The fear of getting sued over completely innocent actions is all too real. Even parents are now uncomfortable if a teacher or priest hugs their children.
Adults in leadership positions are constantly under the scrutiny of suspicious parents. Yes, parents should be aware of potential dangers. Yes, parents should make their children aware of what constitutes improper actions. Yes, parents should protect their children from predators.
But parents should not let normal safety measures grow into paranoia that prevents their children from living a carefree life. Don’t unjustly rob them of their innocence.
This widespread paranoia stems from the actions of the horrible individuals who have abused their positions of power and taken advantage of children. But we should remember that not every priest, teacher or coach is a predator. Most of them care deeply about helping children reach their potential and grow into happy, productive adults. Painting all mentors with a scarlet letter is absurd.
And what effect does this stranger-danger paranoia have on our children? Will the children of our community understand why they can no longer receive hugs from Father Bill?
Father Bill, by all accounts, plays an integral role in their spiritual upbringing. The children used to rush the alter to get their hug.
Now he will have to hold his congregation at arm's length. What message does this send to the children? That Father Bill no longer wants to hug them? That he no longer loves them? Or that he's afraid of hugging them? That a simple hug is inappropriate?
How sad to see this fear take over as we say goodbye to an era when natural displays of emotion went unquestioned. How sad our children and grandchildren may never experience the freedoms of affection many of us remember fondly. How sad that innocent people must stifle their feelings and keep a distance from those they care for.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Kevin Collier and Liz Stuck. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.