As the new year dawns, Kentucky lawmakers are gearing up to act on an issue of grave concern to Kentucky Baptists—one that state convention-goers addressed as recently as this November.
The House Task Force on Child Abuse recently drafted a bill that would place people with human trafficking convictions on the sex offender registry, post the Human Trafficking Hotline number in schools and rest areas, and give the attorney general’s office concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute reported cases.
Additionally, the bill calls for age-appropriate education on human trafficking and sexual abuse, bans sex offenders from public playgrounds, allows parents access to child abuse registries, and requires more thorough background checks for school employees and youth camp employees. It also encourages screening suspected runaways, but rather than sending young victims of human trafficking to juvenile detention facilities, it emphasizes the need to provide compassionate services.
“When you look at it being the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, and that it victimizes people to the degree it does, it’s a critical need we are trying to address,” said Attorney General Andy Beshear.
Kentucky Baptists voiced their concern for the victims of human trafficking in a resolution adopted during their annual meeting in Florence in November. The resolution, in part, called on law-enforcement agencies and prosecutors to do all in their power to end the atrocity. Kentucky Baptists were urged to educate themselves and others about human trafficking, how to prevent it and how to minister to those who have been ensnared by the perils of this form of modern slavery.
Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood spoke to the issue at this year’s convention. “This is a horrendous crime that must be addressed,” he urged. “Human beings should not be treated as property and used in forced prostitution or involuntary labor.”
More than 20 million are enslaved by the $32 billion a year industry—an estimated 26 percent of which are children. But lest we think it is just a third-world scourge, consider that more than 14,000 new victims are brought into the United States each year.
In Kentucky alone, 160 victims of human trafficking were identified in 2014, with 94 of those being children, according to news sources. The unsettling reality is that human trafficking has silently made its way into our city streets and communities, almost without us noticing.
Yet, as the KBC resolution points out, “The Bible describes individuals as being created in the image of God, affirms the sanctity and dignity of all human life, and calls upon believers to speak up for those who cannot defend themselves.” Kentucky Baptists must pray for justice for the perpetrators and the deliverance of human trafficking victims, learn how to identify and respond compassionately to those who are being exploited, and support area ministries that help rescue and rehabilitate these victims.
Our Kentucky Baptist churches also can prominently post the number to the National Human Trafficking hotline, 1-888-373-7888, and we can organize events to educate ourselves on the issue and help spread the word to friends, family, coworkers and fellow church members. A good place to start is the anti-human trafficking rally that has been scheduled at the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 11 at 10 a.m. to show state legislators your support for the human trafficking bill.