Monday, May 21, 2007

Baptist official clueless on clergy sex abuse

Did you see the interview Nashville reporter Jamey Tucker did with Southern Baptist spokesperson Will Hall? In talking about clergy sex abuse, Hall suggested that background checks would solve the problem and that child molesters would likely be in prison. He said it with a little laugh.

Watch the video. What does that little laugh mean? It makes me wonder whether Hall is deliberately pushing propaganda or whether he’s simply clueless.

Hall’s laugh also caught the attention of David Brown, who is no relation to me and who posted this comment on Jamey’s blog: “His light-hearted laugh about how these predators would be in jail shows how very little understanding he has of this horrible crime.” Amen to that. Anyone who knows anything at all about this crime knows that most clergy child molesters have never been convicted of anything.

Anyway, we’ve already seen that Southern Baptist officials are blind even to the small percentage of clergy child molesters who actually have been convicted. The Southern Baptist Convention kept convicted child molesters on its online ministerial registry. Even worse, it didn’t immediately remove the convicted child molesters when they were pointed out. Even after 20/20 told the nation about convicted child molesters on the SBC’s registry, the names still weren’t removed. Instead, the SBC issued a public statement justifying those names on the registry. Only after EthicsDaily posted the actual names of the convicted clergy-perps, after SNAP made a press release about it, and after still more reporters asked questions, did the SBC finally bother to remove the convicted perps from its registry of ministers. This shows a very, very dangerous level of institutionalized denial.

Will Hall also suggested that Southern Baptists had just “40 incidents in the past 15 years.” Where did he get that? How can they spout such nonsense with such smiling assurance?

Last February, SNAP said that "in the past six months" SNAP had received about 40 reports of sexual abuse by Baptist ministers. And of course, we have received many more since February, and there have been many cases reported in the secular press. For a Baptist official to suggest that there have been only "40 incidents in the past 15 years" greatly minimizes the repeated horror so many kids have endured. EthicsDaily called for the SBC to issue a correction, but I’m not holding my breath for it.

Two weeks ago, in a Tennessean poll, 96 percent answered "yes" to the question of "Should the Southern Baptist Convention create a database of sex offenders among its clergy ranks?" This is a no-brainer to most ordinary people, including most ordinary Baptists. It is something the Southern Baptist Convention should have done long ago, and its continued excuses ring hollow.

Once again, David Brown’s comment hit the nail on the head: “The SBC does not want to maintain a database of these predator preachers because they will find out the numbers are frightening.....Mr. Hall and the SBC, you are dreadfully wrong.”


Kaye Maher said...

Thank you for the video. That was the first time I had seen it. Before Will Hall speaks for the SBC again on this topic, I am sure SNAP would be happy to educate him about the subject. Background checks are not solving the problem of clergy sexual abuse. We did background checks and had policies and procedures in place to prevent abuse. We had an excellent resource person to help us with our sexual abuse prevention policies...a clergy sexual abuser himself! I worked on the committee to establish those policies with the minister that years later I found out abused Christa Brown. If Christa had not filed a lawsuit, his sexual abuse would have stayed hidden and he would still be in ministry.

Di said...

Christa, how about suggesting psychological screening of pastors. I discovered that the denomination I was abused in now requires any incoming pastor to the state to be screened by a series of psychological tests. I wonder why they do not require that of all seasoned pastors.

I am planning on going to the state ministerial committee to request that testing be required in the future for all clergy who are reported for sexual misconduct. Had my purpetrator been tested, I imagine there would have been some further follow up, though some did occur to check up on him.

I realize for S. Baptists, the organization is so loose that rule are hard to enforce.

Christa Brown said...

Di, If a minister has been credibly reported for sexual abuse (not mere "misconduct") then he should not be allowed in a ministerial position of spiritual trust ever again, and particularly not in a position in which kids look up to him. At that point, psychological testing and "checking up on him" isn't enough. Since most perpetrators have multiple victims, and since most clergy perpetrators use faith and trust as weapons, it is essential that their weapons be taken away from them. Protecting kids for the future should be the priority.