Southern Baptist Convention Sex Abuse Scandal – Worse Than We Thought
As we wrote about recently, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) a Christian denomination based in the United States. engaged an independent third party to investigate its handling of sex abuse allegations. Guidepost Solutions, LLC released a report dated May 15, 2022, titled, “Report of the Independent Investigation: The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s Response to Sexual Abuse Allegations and an Audit of the Procedures and Actions of the Credentials Committee.”
The Southern Baptist Convention Did Not Get the 2002 “Memo” from the Catholic Church
The Report was born of allegations from 2019. In September, the Houston Chronicle, reported allegations that caused a church to depart the convention. Reports indicated there were “more than 700 victims had been abused by pastors, leaders and volunteers in Southern Baptist congregations.” This led to an independent task force that investigated allegations culminating in the May 2022 Report.
It is notable that this Report about the Southern Baptist Convention focuses on the last twenty years. The scope of the investigation was limited to January 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021. (Report at 17.) It therefore ignores decades of likely more frequent and worse abuse. By comparison, the Catholic Church related reports, including the seminal Grand Jury Report, were far more expansive temporally.
In sum, a cover-up likely remains, and the conduct at issue here – happening far more recently, and AFTER the Catholic Church abuse scandal – is even more egregious. This sounds like a great punitive damages case. Consider what Reuters reminds us – “the Boston Globe newspaper revealed in 2002 that church hierarchy covered up sexual misconduct by its clergy for decades.” So even after that revelation concerning the Catholic Church’s conduct in 2002, the Southern Baptist Convention did not seem to learn anything. Instead, it engaged in the same, if not worse, conduct for the next twenty years after it!
The Report Evidences a Careless Culture Concerned with Protecting the Church, Not the Flock
As CNN reported, “‘Survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action,” the report found, “even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation.’” Many characterize the Southern Baptist Convention’s attitude as resistant, thwarting, and outright hostile. Indeed, Reuters reporting on the Report noted that “Lawsuits against the Convention were denigrated as ‘opportunistic’ and not having merit….”
The Report sets forth, “For almost two decades, survivors of abuse and other concerned Southern Baptists have been contacting the Southern Baptist Convention (“SBC”) Executive Committee (“EC”) to report child molesters and other abusers who were in the pulpit or employed as church staff. They made phone calls, mailed letters, sent emails, appeared at SBC and EC meetings, held rallies, and contacted the press…” The response time and time again was “resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility . . . .” (Id. at 3-4.) The Convention maintained a list since 2007 of accused ministers’ names, the year reported, relevant news articles, and other information. (Id. at 4.)
The Southern Baptist Convention maintained this list for 10 years. It did not, however, seem to act on it. Rather, the focus was on liability. (See id. at 5.) The list has at least 700 names on it, of which 409 appear to be SBC-related. Incredibly, nine people remain in active ministry. (Id.)
The Southern Baptist Convention Engaged in a Pattern of Intimidation
The Report details starting at page five, “Rather than focusing on these accused ministers, some EC leaders turned against the very people trying to shine a light on sexual abuse.” In more scathing detail, the Report continued, “The survivors – those persons who actually suffered at the hands of SBC clergy or SBC church staff or volunteers – who spoke out the most, and who criticized the SBC’s inaction, were denigrated as “opportunistic,” having a “hidden agenda of lawsuits,” wanting to “burn things to the ground,” and acting as a “professional victim.” USA Today summarized it succinctly, “ignored, disbelieved.”
They did not just victim blame. Instead, the Southern Baptist Convention coddled the abusers. “While stories of abuse were minimized, and survivors were ignored or even vilified, revelations came to light in recent years that some senior SBC leaders had protected or even supported abusers….” The Report provided about a half dozen examples in the summary section alone.
SBC has a webpage dedicated to sex abuse. Within it, you will find many resources, including the Manual for Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-serving Organizations: Getting Started on Policies and Procedures.
There is also a 2007 resolution On Protecting Children from Abuse. It is outrageous that they put this out at the same time members complained and they protected the abusers. This document will provide good evidence for trial lawyers taking on these cases.
KBA is Investigating Southern Baptist Sex Abuse Claims
This law firm will be fighting for Survivors of Southern Baptist Convention Sexual Assault. KBA has been fighting sex assault cases since the firm launched years ago. From clergy, Boy Scouts, and healthcare related sex assaults, to nursing homes, residential facilities, and other medical facilities, to sex trafficking, KBA’s attorneys have been fighting this fight long before joining forces at KBA; indeed, founding partner Brian Ketterer was a prosecutor working for the citizens of Pennsylvania and Derek Braslow was fighting the Catholic Church at several law firms, as he continues to do at KBA. Fellow KBA partner, Christina Graziano, has continued the fighting since joining the firm, leading the sex abuse department to fight many newsworthy battles against schools and other entities including religious groups.
If you were sexually abused, please Contact KBA today to discuss confidentially.