MPs are calling on the Government to change the law to prevent relationships between church staff and under 18s.
Sarah Champion, the MP for Rotherham, launched a report on Tuesday that highlights to the Government a loophole in law that does not apply normal safeguarding practices to churches and sports clubs.
Although the age of sexual consent in the UK is 16, adults in 'positions of trust', such as teachers and care workers, are not allowed to have sexual relations with those they have authority over under the age of 18. However, this does not currently apply to churches and other faith settings, as well as people such as driving instructors or a gymnastics teacher.
Sarah Champion, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on safeguarding in faith settings, argues that the definition of 'positions of trust' needs to include church workers who work with under 18s.
Changing the definition has been supported by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, the Archbishop’s Council of The Church of England and the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC).
The inquiry report says: "A number of organisations stated that the current legislation lacks clarity. Many young people and parents assume that legislation prevents leaders and workers in faith settings from engaging in sexual activity with children under their care, however this is not the case."
The MPs in the group, which includes Christian MP Tim Farron, argue that any adult regularly involved in caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of an under 18 should be prohibited from engaging in sexual activity with them and that the Government should therefore amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
Currently, the definition of a ‘position of trust’ is limited to a small number of roles defined in Section 21 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
They recommend that the definition change is followed with a public campaign to make people aware of the law.