Victims seek secular investigatory probe of Southern Baptists
As the nation's largest non-Catholic faith group, the Southern Baptist Convention, holds its annual meeting, leaders of the world’s largest support group for clergy sex abuse victims are urging secular authorities to investigate child sex crimes and cover ups in the denomination.
“No private institution, especially one like the SBC with its horrific track record in dealing with these crimes, can investigate itself,” said Zach Hiner, director of SNAP. the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Given how vast and devastating this crisis is, it’s crucial that police, prosecutors and attorneys general step up and safeguard innocent kids and vulnerable adults.”
“In Catholic institutions and other private entities, we’ve seen countless so-called ‘investigations’ that are just biased, secretive, self-serving public relations moves,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP’s former national director. “And kids are at enormous risk of being molested by Baptist ministers and church employees, so we frankly care more that it get done and less about who does it.”
More than two years have passed since the Houston Chronicle's "Abuse of Faith" investigation brought wide media attention to the long-standing, pervasive SBC problem of clergy sex abuse and church cover-ups. The series documented more than 700 people who reported having been sexually abused by Southern Baptist clergy and church officials. Nearly all were children at the time they were abused.
The investigation also found that the very structure of the SBC “enabled predators to move undetected and stifled reforms to prevent abuse.” And it implicated past SBC presidents and prominent Southern Baptist leaders in the mishandling of abuse complaints.
Few if any real reforms have been adopted by denominational figures since then, SNAP leaders say.
Since 2006, the group has prodded the SBC to at least “take minimal steps toward greater safety” by, for instance, publicizing the names and whereabouts of proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clergy. But they have been met with severe rejection.
“Despite being repeatedly demonized by top Southern Baptist officials for years, Christa Brown and other courageous survivors have shown extraordinary patience and persistence in teaching and prodding Baptist ministers throughout the country to do better at protecting the vulnerable and healing the wounded,” said Hiner. “Their heroism has been ridiculed and offers to help have been rebuffed, which has only benefitted predators and hurt children.”
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)