A Rockford, Minnesota, man was arrested in Chicago two weeks ago for prostituting his wife using Craigslist, transporting her in a van to hotels in eight states and threatening to take away their 3-year-old daughter should she not comply.
Clinton Danner, 32, met his wife five years ago when she was a 17-year-old attending her family's church. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Danner held a criminal record for burglary, lottery fraud, and drugs, but was working with a church counselor to change his life. The couple was wed at the church a few months after the young woman became pregnant.
The woman, whose name has not been released due to her victim status, told her parents about Danner a year ago and tried to leave him. Then, while at a downtown Chicago hotel in mid-March, she contacted Polaris Project for help. Founded in 2002, Polaris Project is one of the largest U.S. organizations battling human trafficking. Its hotline, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, gets 400 to 500 phone calls every month.
The woman's call led to the Cook County Sheriff's Department involvement and Danner's arrest March 14. Several metro areas in the U.S. are attempting to change their approach to prostitution, and Cook County has made great strides. The city has educated its police force to better recognize child prostitution and to view prostitutes as victims instead of criminals. (Oftentimes, prostitutes—even if they are minors—are arrested instead of their pimps or clients.)
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart gained attention in 2009 for filing a lawsuit against Craigslist, calling it the "largest source of prostitution in America." The department said it spent more than $100,000 between January and November 2008 to arrest 156 people who used Craigslist sexual services. The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge. Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster responded to Danner's arrest with the following statement: "Criminal exploitation is reprehensible, and Craigslist works with law enforcement when called upon to apprehend and prosecute those responsible …. Misuse of Craigslist for criminal purposes is extremely unwise, since an electronic trail to the perpetrator is inevitably created."
Last May Her.meneutics editor Katelyn Beaty interviewed Kaffie McCullough, an Atlanta-based advocate for ending child prostitution, when Craigslist changed its adult services guidelines, promising to start monitoring submissions. Adult services advertisers must now pay to publish postings and must list a phone and credit card number. However, Dart and other law enforcement members continue to criticize the site for encouraging prostitution. McCullough called Craigslist the "ground zero for pimps to profit from children."
Meanwhile, Danner's arrest raises critical questions for the Christian community. Obviously local churches are called to demonstrate Christ's love and compassion to even criminal offenders. Yet they are also called to protect innocent churchgoers and to use wise discernment about incorporating such offenders into church life (see Christianity Today's previous coverage about sex offenders in church). When it comes to responding to those who hold criminal records, does your church have specific policies in place? If so, what are they?