Thursday, March 20, 2008

BGCT: Stop keeping dangerous secrets!

Once again, the Baptist General Convention of Texas has publicly justified its secrecy in guarding the names of ministers reported by churches for sexual abuse. It claims that the “majority don’t involve criminal acts.”

“Majority??” Even if we simply take this statement at face value, it necessarily means that a “minority” of the ministers are on that list because of criminal acts. How big is that “minority”? And what is the nature of those criminal acts?

We know for sure that some of the ministers on that list are there because churches reported them for child molestation.

How do we know this? Because the BGCT has publicly said so: “The BGCT keeps a confidential list of individuals who are reported by a church for sexual misconduct, including child molestation….”

We also know it because court-filed documents show that the BGCT placed in that file the name of the minister who abused ME as a kid, and yet the man was still able to continue working in children’s ministry in Florida.

Child molestation is a criminal act. The fact that a perpetrator is never convicted doesn’t alter the fact that the molestation is a criminal act. It’s the same as with murder. It’s still a criminal act even if the murderer gets away with it.

Like the vast majority of child molesters, my perpetrator was never prosecuted or convicted, but his name is in that file at the BGCT.

This means that his name is in the file based on a confession or “substantial evidence” or both.

How do we know this? Because the BGCT has publicly stated that its file includes the names of ministers who have confessed to sexual abuse or for whom there is “substantial evidence that the abuse took place” or who have been reported by a church as a “confirmed” case. The fact that the file includes cases with confessions and “substantial evidence” was also explained in the BGCT’s published brochure “Broken Trust,” which also referred to it as the file of “known offenders.”

BGCT director Jan Daehnert publicly stated that “the list is given to us in confidence by congregations that have had ministers confess or where substantial evidence has been uncovered.” (That's Daehnert in the photo.)

So with all these prior public statements and brochures about “substantial evidence,” what exactly did the BGCT mean a couple days ago, when it told the Star-Telegram that it wouldn’t publish the ministers’ names because they were “unsubstantiated claims”?

Here’s what I think. It was nothing more than gobbledy-gook talk for why the BGCT intends to go right on keeping those names secret. The “unsubstantiated claims” excuse doesn’t make any sense at all in light of all the BGCT’s own prior statements.

If a minister confesses, that’s a form of substantiation.

If there is “substantial evidence that the abuse took place,” that’s a form of substantiation.

If church officers “confirm” the abuse and report it to the BGCT, that too is a form of substantiation.

So the names in that file are NOT there based on “unsubstantiated claims.” This much we know.

Moreover, bear in mind that the BGCT doesn’t put ANY minister’s name in that file based on the mere report of a victim. A minister’s name gets in that file ONLY if he is reported to the BGCT by church officers.

Can you imagine a Catholic bishop publicly saying that he received a report about a priest molesting a kid, but that he’s not going to look into it, and he’s not going to tell people about it, and he’s not going to remove the priest from ministry? That would cause an uproar nowadays, wouldn’t it?

A Catholic bishop would no longer be able to get away with making that sort of a public statement. Some bishops may still keep secrets, but at least they now know that they can’t expect the people in the pews or the public to indulge their desire for secrecy.

By contrast, Baptist leaders are still so blind-eyed and over-confident that they not only believe they can keep quiet about reported clergy-child-molesters, they even believe they can publicly justify such secrecy.

In effect, BGCT leaders act as though they're ENTITLED to keep these kinds of secrets.

Are they?

If your kid was active in a church with a minister whose name was in that file based on a confession or “substantial evidence” of having sexually abused a kid, wouldn’t you want to know about it?

No amount of BGCT public relations people can take away the immoral taint of an institution that keeps these matters secret and that chooses self-protection over kid-protection. No amount of spin-doctoring can make this sort of secrecy into something that doesn’t stink.

Any fool can see that EXCEPT Jan Daehnert and other BGCT officials, who have allowed themselves to be blinded by their own complicity.

How many Baptist ministers are in that secret BGCT file based on reports of having sexually abused kids? Who are the ministers? How many kids have they hurt?

And here’s the most important question of all: How many MORE kids will they hurt before the BGCT finally lifts its blinders and takes morally responsible action to warn people in the pews?
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See SNAP’s 3/18/08 letter to Dr. Jan Daehnert at the BGCT. You too can write to Daehnert at jan.daehnert@bgct.org.

7 comments:

Phyllis Gregory said...

Is it possible to have a class action lawsuit against the BGCT or the SBC? If so, just the threat of something like that might put fear in their hearts. Since none of them have a heart, though, I guess that would be a problem, wouldn't it.

PG

Anonymous said...

I wish Mr. Daehnert would think differently also. Perhaps my case would be considered unsubstantiated. I complained that I was touched inappropriately and it occurred in front of a visiting Awana leader from another church. Clergy response: They never contacted the visiting leader. I complained that I was given directions to visit a website for clip art. I did not know the website was pornographic and was shocked and felt violated to say the least when I went there. Clergy response: They laughed. I complained that the minister I worked for lost his temper, became angry with me, threw his pencil across my office, and slammed down the phone. I felt threatened. Clergy response: They took him to play golf. I complained of the obscene and blasphemous joke that was told to another minister in my presence. Clergy response: "It never happened."

I could go on but you get the idea. Their idea of investigating complaints is ludicrous. As long as they continue behaving the way they want to and being accountable to no one, no act will be criminal or inappropriate. The more we know, the uglier it gets. I'm glad my blinders were removed.

Phyllis Gregory said...

Dear anonymous,

I am so sorry. I have no words to express my shock, disgust, disbelief -- not toward you but, once again, toward men who are supposed to be God ordained. I always think I am past that -- that nothing else could shock me, but then it does.

I don't understand all the legal "stuff" at all and maybe this is not even an option, but I just think I personally would have to consider taking these jerks to court and consider suing them for all they are worth. Have you talked with anyone about doing that?

And I wonder why I have contempt, hate, and disgust for most SBC men in AUTHORITY! I sometimes believe the majority of them are nothing but a bunch of jackasses!

Take care.
PG

Christa Brown said...

Phyllis: Once a week, I walk with a wonderful friend named Elana. She is gentle and good and slow-to-anger, but she is also a strong woman and a force to be reckoned with. On countless occasions, she has listened to me recount things that SBC and BGCT leaders have said and done. She has repeatedly heard my expressions of surprise and disbelief and my statements of "Just when I thought I'd seen it all, they do this" or "Just when I thought they couldn't possibly stoop any lower, they do!" Elana has listened a lot, but lately she has begun to express her own surprise. "Christa, I can't believe you still expect anything OTHER than low behavior from them. They have shown you what their true values are and have shown you over and over again. When will YOU learn? Why do YOU keep expecting the best of them? What holds YOU to that belief?" I think my friend is asking some good questions, and they're questions that, as yet, I just can't answer.

So, Phyllis, if you find an answer to how it is that we can still be shocked by these things after we've seen so much, let me know.

Anonymous said...

I know personally a minister that was wrongly accused (based on my perponderance of his characer and other evidence). He can never go back into any type of children's ministry at all and has been struggling for the last six years making ends meet. It is totally unfair to see how those that have confessed even in the slightest or evidence is clear are being protected.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous posted at 12:15pm:
Could you explain a little more. I am not understanding. Why is it that the minister cannot go back into the ministry? What do you have to do with it? Who are you referring to that is being protected?

Alice

Junkster said...

The BGCT refuses to publish the list for the same reason the SBC is reticent to create their own database -- fear of lawsuits, both by the victims and by the accused. It would be refreshing if they would just admit that's their real concern, but who wants to be the one to admit that money matters more to them than children?