According to Wikipedia, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a Christian denomination based in the United States. “There are currently more than than fifty thousand Southern Baptist cooperating churches and church-type missions.” As Wiki explained further, “[i]t is the world’s largest Baptist denomination, and the largest Protestant and second-largest Christian denomination in the United States.”
The SBC engaged an independent third party to investigate its handling of sex abuse allegations. “The nearly 300-page bombshell report, which was ordered by the 13-million-member SBC, sent shockwaves through the largest Protestant denomination in the US.” The organization, Guidepost Solutions, released the Task Force’s Report on May 22, 2022. As the Washington Times reported, the big takeaway is that, “The Baptists should offer “both a sincere apology and a tangible gesture” including a “survivor compensation fund,” the report from D.C.-based Guidepost Associates said.” KBA has been working with such funds for years, but what may be required for this one could be precedent setting.
Report Shows Southern Baptist Leaders Failed to Protect Sex Abuse Survivors
KBA 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.
KBA wrote about sex abuse within religious organizations many times before. KBA has tracked the release of several reports, including from NJ. Notably, KBA was calling attention to groups beyond the Catholic Church years ago. In fact, KBA wrote about some survivors of Southern Baptist sex abuse years ago. One report found Southern Baptist Leaders Condemned Decades of Sexual Abuse Revealed in Investigation. Now, three years later, an independent investigation reveals the truth. The Chicago Tribune via AP reported today that a recent report concludes, “Southern Baptist leaders stonewalled and denigrated sex abuse victims.”
As characterized by ABC News, “Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, stonewalled and denigrated survivors of clergy sex abuse over almost two decades while seeking to protect their own reputations, according to a scathing 288-page investigative report issued Sunday.” FoxNews reported a familiar course of conduct at SBC, “The report also found that suspected perpetrators of sexual assault were given ‘autonomy’ and were even allowed to remain in ministry.”
Southern Baptist Report from May 2022 Evidences “resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility”
The Report “revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse….” These people charged with protecting the vulnerable, “were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC.” Focused on protecting the institution rather than the children being sexual abused, “survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation….”
Like other groups, the Baptists maintained a list of abusers. The “Executive Committee staffer maintained a list of Baptist ministers accused of abuse, but there is no indication anyone ‘took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches.'” The abuse here concerns adults, not just children. As the Tribune reported, “Johnny Hunt, a Georgia-based pastor and past SBC president, sexually assaulted another pastor’s wife during a beach vacation in 2010.”
Too Little Too Late
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.
In September, the Executive Committee still seemed doubtful. It wrote, “With one collective voice our Convention is expressing its concern for victims of sexual abuse and that is a very good thing. The executive committee leadership also appreciates the continued engagement & active interest of Southern Baptists nationwide in this process. However, we are concerned that too many of the statements issued reflect disinformation, half truths, and mischaracterizations of the motives and actions of the Executive Committee.” (emphasis added). Fortunately, an independent third party task force conducted an investigation.
The Report set forth some recommendations, which could have been done at any time. They include:
—Create and maintain an Offender Information System to alert the community to known offenders.
— Provide a comprehensive Resource Toolbox including protocols, training, education, and practical information.
—Restrict the use of nondisclosure agreements and civil settlements ….
KBA is investing its resources into holding SBC accountable as KBA has held other entities accountable for similarly misconduct.
KBA is Investigating Southern Baptist Sex Abuse Claims
If you were sexually abused, please Contact KBA today to discuss confidentially.