LEVELS of verbal abuse and violence against Church of England clergy are to be surveyed for the first time in almost 20 years.
About 7000 clergy in parish and cathedral posts are to be sent online surveys this month on behalf of National Churchwatch, which provides safety advice for clergy and churchworkers.
The survey is being carried out by academics from Royal Holloway University of London, with £5000 funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government via the police’s anti-hate crime website, True Vision.
A ministry spokesman said: “We have responded to the Christian community’s concerns around hate crime by funding Church Watch via True Vision to research the scale of the problem and to develop support to prevent incidents from occurring. Once we receive the results of this research we can decide on the next steps.”
Professor Jonathan Gabe from the department of criminology and sociology at Royal Holloway said: “We’ll be asking if clergy have experienced any form of verbal abuse or threats or assaults, how they manage these situations, and what precautions they take to minimise the possibility of these occurring.”
The survey will also ask whether the priest has reported such incidents to his or her diocese or the police. An area of inquiry not covered in the last survey of its kind, carried out by Royal Holloway in 2000, will be online harassment.
Professor Gabe added that he was also interested to see whether clergy received less respect today owing to increasing secularisation.
The director of National Churchwatch, Nick Tolson, who requested the funding for the survey, said he hoped that the results of the research would enable his organisation “to ensure we are tailoring our advice to the right crimes and right people”, and give police and the Home Office the academic evidence that they need to allocate resources specifically to tackling anti-Christian hate crime.
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