Alleged Predator List released by Southern Baptists, SNAP calls on Attorneys General nationwide
(For Immediate Release May 27, 2022)
Many will applaud Southern Baptist Convention leaders for releasing this list of abusers today. We are not among them. This is the bare minimum step that SBC leadership needed to take following the most recent report that has shed light on decades of abuse and cover-up within our nation’s largest Protestant denomination. If SBC leadership wants applause, they have much, much more to do.
While the publication of these known abusers is critical to ensuring parishioners and children at SBC churches throughout the country are protected, SBC leadership has dragged their feet on taking this simple step for many years. We know that the idea of a database of abusers was suggested to convention leadership as early as 2007 and that this effort to support public safety was refused by church leadership. We can only wonder that, with today’s release, what other information has been redacted or hidden by these leaders?
There is no doubt that SBC leaders needed to act and act quickly in the wake of this week's bombshell report. While we are glad that they didn’t take additional weeks to release this initial, assuredly short, list of names, we are also not waiting for further action from the church. No institution can police itself, and regardless of what steps are taken internally by the SBC, what must happen for true prevention, healing, and justice is the involvement of outside, secular officials.
In 2018, multiple probes by attorneys general throughout the country were launched regarding abuse within the Catholic Church. Some of those investigations are ongoing today as tips and information from survivors, witnesses, and whistleblowers continue to come in. In that case, the involvement of secular law enforcement and their active outreach to survivors via hotlines, confidential reporting systems, and dedicated investigators helped instill confidence that reports would be taken seriously and helped bring many still-silent survivors out of the woodwork in states throughout our country.
There is no question in our mind that the same must take place with the SBC. These church leaders have long put the reputations of their convention and themselves ahead of the protection of their own communities. Releasing a few names, most of which have already been revealed publicly, is no signal that things are substantially different today. For there to be true transparency, for survivors to have a shot at justice and for children to be protected from abusers, secular law enforcement must act.
We have grave concern and rightly so. If the names alleged on this list have had careers like Pastor Gilyard, who has 44 allegations alone, with 700 names, we very well could be looking at over 25,000 victims. It is extremely rare for sexually abusive clergy to have just one victim.
We call on every single attorney general in the U.S. to work within the strictures of their state and to launch investigations into SBC abuse within their borders. Whether an AG is empowered to launch an investigation on their own or they need a local case from a District Attorney to proceed, we hope that these elected officials will use their statutory power and some creativity to find out what really happened within the SBC.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant and we do not yet know whether current SBC leadership has thrown the window open wide or if they are still drawing curtains to protect their church. It is incumbent on our attorneys general, district attorneys, and local police and prosecutors to find the truth and share it with the American public.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager([email protected], 267-261-0578), Dave Brown, SNAP Leader Tennessee (901-569-4500) Melanie Sakoda ([email protected], 925-708-6175) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)