Friday, August 6, 2010

It's a "business decision"

In a series of comments on Debbie Kaufman’s blog, “Mary” provided a candid explanation for why Baptist leaders won’t take the sorts of steps that other major faith groups take toward addressing clergy sex abuse. Here is her answer for why the Southern Baptist Convention won’t provide a trained panel for objectively assessing clergy abuse reports and won’t keep a database on credibly-accused Baptist ministers.

“The SBC is just not going to take on the liability that a national database would expose it to … it’s the reality in the litigeous society we live in,” says Mary.

Okay. Got it. SBC leaders are afraid of being sued.

Mary continues: “A lawyer would say you couldn’t list ‘credibly accused’ because of the fear of slander/defamation suits.”

Okay. Got it. SBC leaders are specifically afraid of suits for slander and defamation.

“Can a person sue the SBC and get a lot of money for having their name put on a ‘credibly accused’ list? Uhhh yeah," she says. "If the SBC were to decide to investigate and compile databases of accused/convicted/confessed than they are not just ‘providing information’ but ‘assuming a duty’ (legal term) which opens them up to not a small amount of liability. The SBC does not have unlimited resources and so yes they have to make what seems like cold and a calculated ‘business’ decisions in the stewardship over those resources.”

Okay. Got it. The SBC is making a “business decision” to lessen their risk of liability.

So there you have it, folks. The reason the SBC won’t keep records on credibly accused clergy predators is because they’re afraid of being sued by their own credibly accused clergy predators.

Thank God that “Mary” at least had the decency to speak the truth about the fact that it’s a “business decision.” I’m so weary of the many Baptist leaders who promote the false propaganda that their do-nothingness is a religious decision.

Of course, I don’t agree for one second with “Mary’s” apparent view that this “business decision” is right. To the contrary, I think it’s an utterly immoral decision. And I definitely don’t buy the post-hoc rationalization that this “business decision” is about “stewardship.”

If Baptist leaders were genuinely concerned about “stewardship,” wouldn’t they also care about “stewardship” of the next generation?

But “Mary” (who probably isn’t really a “she” much less a “Mary”) has expressed the reality of what’s going on in Baptistland. For that, he deserves thanks.

The sooner Baptist leaders speak honestly about the real reasons for their do-nothingness, the sooner kids in Baptistland will have a better chance of being better protected.

But so long as Baptist leaders claim their do-nothingness is biblically-based, they cut off the possibility for genuine debate. Few in Baptistland will want to argue with “the Bible tells me so.”

“Mary” has spoken the truth: it’s a “business decision.” Baptist leaders are exploiting their own religious polity to use it as an excuse for what is, in reality, a “business decision” to shield the institution of the Southern Baptist Convention from the risk of liability.

But what about shielding kids against the risk of clergy predators?

That’s the thing about business decisions. They involve trade-offs. And Baptist leaders are effectively choosing to sacrifice the safety of kids on the altar of institutional self-protection.

It may be an astute “business decision” for the institution of the Southern Baptist Convention, but it is a morally unconscionable decision in light of the human beings who are affected.

A lot of churches make a similar trade-off. To avoid the risk of defamation lawsuits, church leaders often don’t say anything when other churches call for a reference on a prior minister who was let go in the face of ugly allegations. Church leaders cave into their fear and protect the institution of the church rather than doing what’s right and protecting kids.

It stinks. Fear usually does.

But what stinks even worse is the do-nothing “business decision” of Southern Baptist leaders.

Churches need help. And the Southern Baptist Convention has far greater resources for handling the risk of defamation lawsuits (and for possibly insuring against them) than do most local churches.

Yet, rather than helping churches by providing the resource of objective assessments on abuse allegations, and rather than protecting kids by providing a database of credibly-accused clergy, Southern Baptist leaders opt to protect the institution against the risk of being sued.

Rather than taking onto their own shoulders the risk of defamation lawsuits, they leave the risk of clergy sex abuse on the backs of innocent kids.


Anonymous said...

This is not the first time I heard of this issue of defamation lawsuits being behind the SBC not taking steps to protect children. I have also been told before an article is published that possible lawsuits are considered. However articles are printed reports are done regarding the abuse of children in our churches. So why do they take this chance and the SBC takes no chances to protect children’s lives even when they know that a minister is an abuser? I guess my life and the life of my child was not worth anything to any of the ministers who knew then and know now as this man is still the head pastor of a SBC church? This minister who abused me and admits to being the father of my child is still in the pulpit. So I guess things have not changed. How many of the people in his church ever read his deposition and mine and heard or read the transcript of the tape I made of the conversation. How comfortable would they be to hear how he tells how “kids love him” How this one young girl ( a child in school ) – he says is in love with him and thinks he is sexy? He lies in his deposition but tells enough truth that if you read it carefully and do some math and review the tape, that he did not know I had at the time of his deposition most people might be more careful with their children. He even admits that the only reason I told about him was because of what he told me about this child. Why do I care more about this child than the people of his church and the parents of the child he talks about do they know? He never told the whole truth just told parts that I had already proven. He said in his deposition that he was in counseling because he was told to and the he did not think that anything was wrong with him, so exactly what was the benefit of him going to a therapist and how much good did it do after the first time. He came and abused me again, so what makes anyone think things have changed? I have been told by ministers to let it go that this is past. Why do they not know that it is not past while he is still in a position to hurt others?
I was so hurt and so young and all alone only God heard my cries and knows my pain and I want no other child to feel what I did to suffer and I do not understand why others do not feel the same way. Please make an effort – speak up - Children can be better protected and should be
Thanks for listening
Debbie V

Thy Peace said...

FBC Jax Watchdog > HP CEO Resigns: Too Bad We Expect More Integrity of CEO's than Our Baptist Leaders

John said...

Anyone who has been involved in the workings of the SBC at any level would have to admit that these statements are true if they but had one honest bone in their body. Job security and financial rewards have got in te way of ministry and spreading the Truth!