Kari Baker’s mother, Linda Dulin, delivered a victim impact statement in which she said this: “You took her from us, Matt. You discarded her like she was yesterday’s trash. You murdered the mother of your children. . . . You spent your life preying on innocent people. . . .”
So there it is: After a lifetime of “preying on innocent people,” and after always getting away with it, Matt Baker murdered the mother of his children.
I guess he thought he could get away with that too.
In today’s sentencing phase of the trial, prosecutors presented some of the evidence about Baker’s lifetime of “preying on innocent people.”
They couldn’t present all of it because, as they explained, some people were out of town for today’s hearing. But prosecutors had already given official notice that they had evidence of at least 13 young women, including 4 minors, toward whom Matt Baker had made inappropriate “advances” and assaults.
Though some of the allegations had been previously reported to various Baptist officials, none of them had prevented Matt from continuing as a Baptist minister. In fact, the sexual abuse and assault allegations didn’t see the light of day until Matt Baker was brought up on a murder charge.
Is that what it takes in Baptistland?
Does it take a murder charge before people in the pews can learn about such ugly clergy conduct as sexual abuse and assaults?
Lora was among those who testified at today’s sentencing hearing. Back in 1991, she was the freshman girl who reported Baker to Baylor University officials for what was a sexual assault. But according to her testimony, “Baylor officials told her there was no need to contact the police because they would handle it.”
Baylor University is the largest Baptist University in the world. So how did they “handle it”?
As reported by Texas Monthly magazine, Baylor University “administrators did type up a report, but they took no action.”
A few years later, Baylor even admitted Matt Baker into its renowned Truett Seminary on the Baylor campus. Did Baylor officials not see the report in their own file? Or did they just not care?
And why didn’t they find out about some of the other sexual abuse allegations that had been made against Matt by then?
After all, at First Baptist Church of Waco alone, there had already been two sexual abuse allegations against Matt. The pastor and another minister received separate reports. In one, Matt was reported to have grabbed a female custodian, and in the other, he cornered a teenage girl.
With the assault report at Baylor and the two abuse reports at First Baptist, you’d think someone would have put a stop to Matt Baker’s ministerial career then and there. But no . . . in Baptistland, no one bothers to look into such things, and an accused pastor simply moves on to greener pastures. Matt Baker moved on to one of the most prestigious churches in Waco, Columbus Avenue Baptist Church.
From there, his career continued through a string of other Baptist churches and organizations . . . and still more allegations arose.
But no one ever stopped him.
Here are the places Matt Baker worked:
- Baylor University
- First Baptist Church of Waco
- Columbus Avenue Baptist Church
- First Baptist Church of Robinson
- the YMCA (which reportedly fired him)
- Truett Seminary at Baylor (as a student)
- Pecan Grove Baptist Church
- Williams Creek Baptist Church
- First Baptist Church of Riesel
- Northlake Baptist Church in Dallas
- Waco Center for Youth (where his clergy credentials allowed him to work as a chaplain with emotionally disturbed youth!!!)
- Crossroads Baptist Church
- Baptist Student Union at Schreiner College
With the exception of the YMCA (where he had multiple abuse allegations) and the Waco Center for Youth, all of those churches, schools and organizations are affiliated with the same umbrella organization -- the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Wouldn’t you think they could have some system for keeping track of abuse allegations?
Wouldn’t you think their affiliated entities could communicate with one another?
But apparently they don’t. Even at the end of his career -- and even after so many abuse and assault allegations -- Matt Baker got a job working with college kids at a Baptist Student Union. It was a position funded by the Baptist General Convention of Texas itself.
Investigative journalist Scott Hollandsworth offered an explanation for this huge institutional failure. He pointed out that, among Baptists, “there are no rules” requiring a church to inform others about a minister accused of abuse. “In fact,” he explained, “to avoid defamation lawsuits, leaders of a church have an incentive to keep their mouths shut when it comes to questionable behavior among clergy, which is perhaps why First Baptist officials said nothing about the allegations when other churches later called, interested in hiring Matt.”
So that’s how it works in Baptistland. Church leaders just “keep their mouths shut,” and predatory ministers simply move on.
This closed-mouth system is flat-out dangerous. It shouldn’t take a murder to bring to light a pastor’s career history of “preying on innocent people.”
For more on the history of abuse and assault allegations against Matt Baker, see my prior postings, “Baptist leaders silent at the start of trial” and “Why didn’t Baptists bust him?” For links to all of my 12 columns on the Matt Baker case, see the bottom of this posting.
1/25/10: The list of places Matt Baker worked is derived from information gathered and reported by Texas Monthly magazine.