Thursday, December 30, 2010

Columnists summed up Baptist clergy abuse story

In 2010, the writings of four columnists gave a good overview of the Baptist clergy sex abuse story. The columnists are Norman Jameson (former editor of the Biblical Recorder), Douglas Sharp (dean of the American Academy for the Common Good), Robert Parham (executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics), and David Briggs (Association of Religion Data Archives). Here are their combined and excerpted words.

“It would be a mistake to give in to the convenient temptation that this is ‘a Catholic problem’.” (David Briggs)

“Sex-abuse cases also rock Baptist churches. Individually they are just as bad, and collectively we are doing a lot less than the Catholics about resolution.

"Southern Baptists as a national entity have nothing in place to prevent abusers from carrying their satchels of pain to another church or to yank credentials from an abusive clergyman.

"A motion to institute a national registry of abusers was rejected by the Southern Baptist Executive Committee in 2008 on the basis of church autonomy. The Executive Committee recommended instead that churches run background checks through an already available U.S. Department of Justice system. That system contains names only of those convicted of a crime and not those times when a church forces a minister to leave and keep the reasons unstated to avoid lawsuits or embarrassment.” (Norman Jameson)

"The sexual abuse of children is going on in Protestant churches, and it is social, sexual and religious irresponsibility to ignore it, camouflage it, minimize it or think one's faith community is immune from it." (Douglas Sharp)

“Since the late 1990s, denominational judicatories in the mainline Protestant traditions have taken formal structural, educational, ethical and policy steps to prevent and report all forms of sexual abuse in their churches. . . . These efforts are indicative of attempts to cultivate ‘safe’ and ‘hospitable’ churches for all, but especially for children. (See for example, American Baptist Churches, USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church, USA, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church and Episcopal Church.)” (Douglas Sharp)

[Note that the largest Protestant denomination in the land – the Southern Baptist Convention – is not included in Sharp’s list.]

“Protecting the Baptist denomination and churches from public humiliation and discrediting has been a higher priority for many Baptist leaders than protecting children from the predatory ministers – ministers who move from church to church, state to state, without punishment, only to harm again. . . . The shield of local church autonomy is a false one that should not be used to protect predatory preachers. . . Baptist leaders know too well about the official church connectivity and ‘unofficial web of clergy connectivity’. . . .

"The biblical concept of church autonomy should not be used to override the biblical concept of protecting the vulnerable. . . .

"Catholic and Baptist leaders have more similarities than differences on the child-abuse front. Both have harmed church members and the Christian witness by not swiftly addressing predatory clergy and designing reliable protective systems. And both have covered up predatory behavior . . . .

"Sacraments may differ. But the systems, secrecy and spin are similar – and shameful.” (Robert Parham)

“We know it takes extraordinary courage for even one victim to come forward amid the shame associated with sexual abuse. Most clergy abusers are likely to have several victims, and should never again have access to children. Yet when the unimaginable happens, few are willing to believe the victim. Congregants remember the minister . . . as someone who visited them in the hospital or comforted them at funerals. Religious leaders tend to view them as friends and colleagues, and are likely to take their word over the victim’s word or give the abuser a second or third chance. Fear of lawsuits or damage to the institution hardens their hearts further.

“And the children suffer, many for the rest of their lives. . . . The most religious, those who are most likely to accept a cleric’s authority and most dependent on their faith . . . are the most vulnerable.” (David Briggs)

“While many other structures of modern life have heightened the protections offered to children, the churches have lagged behind – with disastrous consequences. The Baptist situation may be no better than the Catholic, only shielded more deeply from view.

“This situation demands reform, immediately, for the sake of the vulnerable and abused children among us – not to mention for the sake of the gospel witness . . . .” (David Gushee)

The situation demands immediate reform . . . but how much longer until reform actually happens? And how many more Baptist church kids will suffer?

My hope for 2011 is that Baptists will make protection of "the least of these" the most important thing on their agenda.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top Baptist abuse-related stories of 2010

1. Southern Baptist pastor Matt Baker was convicted of murder. Despite multiple prior reports of sexual abuse and sexual assault, Matt Baker was always able to move on through churches, schools and organizations affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. No one stopped him. Links to my many postings on the Matt Baker story are at the bottom here.

2. The Tina Anderson story: The alleged rape of a 15-year-old by a deacon, and its cover-up, implicated multiple Baptist pastors and multiple Baptist churches from New Hampshire to Colorado to Indiana to Wisconsin.

3. Frank “still-no-apology” Page was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. This is the man who publicly castigated clergy abuse survivors who speak out as “nothing more than opportunistic persons.” Rather than imposing consequences on a leader who wrote such stunningly callous remarks about clergy sex abuse survivors, Southern Baptists promoted him.

4. After Southern Baptist pastor Daniel Moore of New Whiteland Baptist Church in Franklin, Indiana, was charged with child sex abuse, the pastor, ministers and deacons of Calvary Baptist Church in the nearby town of Greenwood invited him to worship at their church “anonymously.” And in what appeared as an effort to influence the judge to impose a lesser sentence, Calvary’s leaders also wrote a letter of support for Moore. Congregants from New Whiteland packed the courtroom in support of their former pastor.

5. Stephen Carter, a former Southern Baptist missionary who worked in Belize for four years and then became the director of a Baptist camp in North Carolina was found dead of an apparent suicide. At the time of his death, he was awaiting trial on six child sex charges. We have seen no Baptist public outreach effort to help children who may have encountered this man in Belize or to help those who made the allegations in North Carolina.

6. Baptist pastor Robert Dando pled guilty to repeatedly abusing two boys in Virginia, starting when they were 7 and 8 years old. Virginia prosecutors said that, under questioning, Dando also admitted to sexually abusing boys in the United Kingdom. Dando was closely connected to the highest levels of Baptist worldwide leadership; he previously served as executive assistant to the president of the Baptist World Alliance. More on this story is here.

7. “More than 600” felony offenses turned up when about 900 churches and organizations conducted background checks on staff and volunteers by using the discounted service offered through LifeWay, which is the publishing and research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention has about 45,000 churches. Do the math.

8. Eddie Long, pastor of the 25,000 member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta, was accused by four young men of having used spiritual authority to coerce them into sexual acts when they were teen church members. The case was also noteworthy because of how other Baptists tried to distance themselves from it. For example, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote that independent Baptist congregations lack “the discipline of a denomination.” Mohler appeared to be suggesting that Southern Baptist churches are less likely to have such scandals because they have a denomination. But where’s the discipline? When a man described as “the most prominent public intellectual” in the Southern Baptist Convention talks about “the discipline of a denomination,” people ought to ask about the system of discipline in his own denomination.

9. In New Hampshire, Southern Baptist pastor Timothy Dillmuth and two church elders were found guilty of failing to report suspected child sex abuse. The prosecutor described it as “a conspiracy” that was “not only unlawful but shameful.” The judge pointed out that they “deliberately attempted” to keep the matter within the church and, because they used religion as a rationalization, said “they would do it again.” Abuse reporting laws are rarely enforced; this case was a remarkable exception.

10. Okay, this one isn’t going to make anyone else’s list, but I’m proud of it and so it goes on my list. The Reverend Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, presented me, Christa Brown, with the Phoebe Award. The 3,000 member church gives this award to “someone who has made a difference in our world” and “who stands up for truth and right.” Kudos to Rev. McKissic for recognizing that the work of seeking to protect against clergy-predators is not work that attacks the church but work that seeks to help the church. In 2011, I’m hoping that many more Southern Baptist pastors will arrive at the same understanding as Rev. McKissic, and will care enough to do something about it.

Wishing for all of you peace in your hearts in 2011.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bed Intruder Christmas Carol

Humor is not my strong suit. I’ll be the first to admit it. So, whenever everyone else thinks something is funny, and I don’t, I tend to doubt myself. Watch this video. Tell me what you think.

This is the a cappella choir at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Liberty is the largest evangelical Christian university in the world. It was founded by Jerry Falwell, and has close ties with Thomas Road Baptist Church, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Here’s the gist of the story behind the video. In Huntsville, Alabama, Antoine Dodson spoke to the local news station, WAFF-48, after an intruder broke into his sister’s bedroom window and tried to rape her. He was clearly upset at the time. He himself had fought the intruder after his sister screamed. The intruder escaped, leaving behind a room that showed considerable evidence of the struggle.

Antoine Dodson was angry. He was on high adrenaline. He was authentic and real in expressing his feelings. You can see the video of Antoine's original interview here.

With almost lyrical phrasing, and with plenty of emotion, Antoine says everyone should lock up their kids and wives because there’s a rapist loose in the projects. Then he tells the intruder “you are so dumb” (because they have his t-shirt and fingerprints), and he says “we’re going to find you. . . homeboy.”

The Gregory Brothers put Antoine’s interview to music as the “Bed Intruder Song,” and you can see that music-video here. It uses the original video of Antoine himself, and as I understand it, the Gregory Brothers split the proceeds 50/50 with Antoine.

The “Bed Intruder Song” went viral, and as of yesterday, it had received over 52,000,000 views on YouTube, which listed it as the most popular video of 2010.

Then, a week ago, Liberty University’s choir performed their own Christmas carol version of the “Bed Intruder Song,” and put it up on YouTube. They used Antoine’s own words, except they substituted the word “taking” for “raping.” I guess a Christmas song about “raping” wouldn’t have been festive?

But isn’t that exactly the problem? Raping isn’t festive and raping isn’t funny. Antoine’s own words were authentic and real, but there is nothing authentic about this Liberty University production of his words. It makes an attempted rape and the brother’s reaction into a Christmas comedy, and it does so without any apparent interest in or concern for the context.

But hey . . . that’s just me talking. If you look at the YouTube comments, it’s obvious that a whole heckuva lot of other people think it’s “hilarious” and “awesome.” In one week’s time, Liberty University’s video captured 430,000 views on YouTube and has brought a whole lot of media attention to the school.

University chancellor, Jerry Falwell, Jr., said “the video helps break a stereotype about Christians not being able to show a side of humor.”

“It’s great that the world is able to see that Christian young people can have fun just like everybody else,” he said.

A parody about an attempted rape in the projects is “fun”? This is how Christian young people at a private university show humor?

Well . . . I said from the get-go that humor is not my strong suit. So tell me what you think.


See also: "The humor in attempted rape is (nonexistent)," BaptistPlanet, 12/19/10

Another perspective: "Antoine Dodson's sister: On invisibility as violence," 8/20/10

A tangential 2010 Liberty U story: "Former Liberty University professor sentenced on sex charge," The News-Advance, 3/5/10

Friday, December 17, 2010

Venom-spitters and bile-spewers

“I happen to be a family member of one of the higher ups in this church.”

That’s how the comment began, and it deteriorated from there.

The church this “family member of one of the higher ups” is talking about is Eden Westside Baptist Church in Pell City, Alabama. It’s a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

What set-off this “family member of one of the higher ups” was this prior post I did about one of Eden Westside’s ministers who pled guilty to sexual abuse of a 14-year-old.

I’m always a bit amazed when people think they can come onto my own blog, call me ugly names, and flat-out libel me.

On my own blog.

And frequently, they spit their venom anonymously, as this “family member of one of the higher ups” did. Such courage!

So, since I can’t tell whether this person is male or female, I’ll just call him or her “Billie.”

Here’s the thing, “Billie.” You can’t use my own blog as a forum for libeling me and calling me names. If you want to do that sort of thing, you can surely find some Baptist blog on which to do it, and with your style of trash-talk, you’ll fit right in on some of them. But you can’t expect to call me names and say untrue things about me right here on my own blog. Got it?

Some of you other bile-spewers should take a lesson on this as well. I won’t let you use my blog as a spittoon for your venom. Besides, you really need to be more civilized.

I’ve been getting a lot of this ugly stuff lately, and some of it far worse than “Billie’s.” Mostly, I just delete it. But it really makes me wonder about a lot of Southern Baptists. Rather than letting their faith inspire them toward their best selves, some Southern Baptists seem to use their faith as an excuse for bringing forth their worst selves.

And those “worst selves” sure aren’t very pretty.

The bit of substance in “Billie’s” rant was his statement that the church deserves no blame because “the man had no record and no one could have known he was a creep.”

This is where I almost feel compassion for “Billie.” People like “Billie” have been so misled by Southern Baptist leaders that they actually believe that, if a guy doesn’t have a criminal record, then he’s automatically safe to be in a position of high trust as a minister.

It’s ignorance for sure, but it’s the sort of ignorance that Southern Baptist leaders have actively promoted. Forget about the fact that many experts say only about 3 percent of child molesters have any record (and almost all experts say it’s less than 10 percent). Forget about the fact that other major faith groups now have denominational review boards to assess clergy abuse allegations that can’t be criminally prosecuted. Forget about the fact that Southern Baptists are years behind on the bare-bones basics as compared to how other major faith groups are more pro-actively implementing safeguards to protect against clergy abuse. Forget about the fact that Southern Baptists don’t even bother with denominational record-keeping on credibly-accused clergy. Forget about the fact that Southern Baptists’ system of denominational do-nothingness allows many clergy predators to church-hop with ease, with no one at the new church even being warned.

That’s the sort of ignorance that Southern Baptist leaders have promoted. That’s the sort of ignorance that, as a practical matter, allows Baptist pastors to remain in pulpits so long as they’re not sitting in prison. That’s the sort of ignorance that leaves countless kids and congregants at risk.

Like “Billie,” most Southern Baptists seem to find it easier, and more psychologically comfortable, to imagine that each and every story (and there are now hundreds of them) is nothing more than the story of an isolated “creep.” That way, they can distance themselves from the “creep” and they don’t have to take a hard look at themselves. That way, they don’t have to bother with considering how their own institutionalized denominational do-nothingness contributes to the problem.

But as Rev. Timothy Bonney said: “Anytime an SBC minister commits abuse, the denomination carries some level of blame for not creating a system to deal with abuse.”

Baptists can’t just wipe that responsibility away by saying “the man had no record.”

And one last message for bile-spewing “Billie”: Ministers like the one that was at Eden Westside aren’t merely “creeps” – they’re criminals.

Note to all: For the indefinite future, I plan to moderate all comments on this blog. Clergy abuse survivors are my primary intended audience, and several have written to me privately, saying they feel they can no longer read my blog because some of the comments have been so upsetting for them. Though I have always deleted the worst of comments, in hindsight, I wish I had deleted a great many more.

Survivors: You are, and always have been, right in your determination to protect yourselves against the meanness of what some of these know-nothings dish out. So . . . in the future, be assured that the pseudo-religious bile-spewers, venom-spitters, and pontificators of unfiltered ignorance will get no forum on this blog, not even for one second. It's bad enough that Southern Baptists have no system for extending any help to clergy abuse survivors, and I will NOT allow them to inflict even more wounds with their comments on this blog.

I hope this may mean that more survivors will eventually feel more able to participate. But whether you ever leave a comment, or merely lurk and read quietly, I want this blog to be a safe place.


Update: "Christa Brown: Restricted commenting," on Civil Commotion, 12/17/10

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Feds investigate mortgage scheme with link to Baptist pastors

In Atlanta, federal authorities are investigating a “controversial mortgage scheme” that allegedly preyed on financially troubled homeowners, and two Baptist mega-church pastors are linked to it.

As told by CBS Atlanta reporter Wendy Saltzman, at least a thousand people paid Matrix Capital a $1,500 upfront fee based on the company’s promise that it could get their mortgage payments lowered. But according to investigators, “most of them ended up in bankruptcy and losing their homes” instead.

Southern Baptist mega-church pastor Gary Hawkins was "the face of the company's promotional video," and he “vouched” for Fred Lee, the man behind the company. Many of the victims attended a Matrix seminar that was presented inside Hawkins’ Voices of Faith church, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. With 11,000 members, Voices of Faith also claims to be “one of the fastest growing churches in the Georgia Baptist Convention.”

Independent Baptist pastor Eddie Long also allowed Matrix to present seminars at his prominent New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

People say they trusted the Matrix representative, Fred Lee, “because he made those promises in the sanctity of their local church.” Now, CBS News reports that people are asking whether these two mega-church leaders got “kick-backs to betray their flocks and expose their congregations to financial disaster.”

Police say that Southern Baptist pastor Hawkins was “less than forthcoming with records that would have shown if payments were made” either to him personally or to the church.

Independent Baptist pastor Eddie Long is the same pastor who is also embroiled in civil lawsuits alleging clergy sex abuse. Four young men have accused him of using spiritual authority to coerce them into sexual acts when they were teen church members.

Both Hawkins and Long refer to themselves as “bishops” – a title that is unusual in Baptist life. Nevertheless, both pastors are indeed Baptist.

When news of the Eddie Long scandal first broke, some Baptists tried to distance themselves by claiming that Long wasn’t really a Baptist -- despite the fact that his church is called New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. But the Southern Baptist Convention is about as Baptist as you can get, and the SBC’s own website lists pastor Gary Hawkins’ email address as So make no mistake about it, self-named “bishops” exist in Baptist life, and both of the pastors who are being investigated in this mortgage scheme are Baptist.

(For more explanation on “Baptist bishops,” see this article in Slate, recognizing that, nowadays, some Baptist churches do indeed have “bishops” and naming Baptist historian Doug Weaver of Baylor University – the largest Baptist university in the world – as one of its sources for the information.)

Without accountability, power corrupts. In Baptistland, we have repeatedly seen this truth manifested, not only in the context of clergy sex abuse, but also in the context of financial shenanigans.

For both types of corruption, the root of the problem is a systemic lack of accountability. This is the root that Baptists so desperately need to remedy.

Related posts on financial mismanagement and misdealings in Baptistland: "Almighty Dollar"; "Spending God's Money"; and "He could have been stopped."

Related post on "Another Eddie Long controversy."

Monday, December 6, 2010

This Little Light reaches France

“L’Église baptiste, paradis des pédophiles”

That’s the headline that people in France are reading when they open the December/January edition of the Paris publication, Books magazine. In English, it says:

“The Baptist church: Paradise for Pedophiles”

The headline is for a review of my book, This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang. It's a book that not only tells my personal story, but also documents the denomination’s do-nothing response to the problem of clergy child molesters.

The review, written by investigative journalist Patrick Lindsay Bowles, is “fantastique.” In the space of a page, he illuminates the irrational arrogance of many Baptist leaders and their "systematic persecution of victims." And amazingly, Bowles even manages a touch of humor, as when he talks about former Southern Baptist president Paige Patterson, whose hobbies include “hunting dangerous game” and who is shown on his website “kneeling behind the much-dreaded zebra.”

Ooh-la-la. Think about what this means. There are now people in France who are reading about the ugly reality of America’s largest Protestant denomination. They are learning of how the “Convention Baptiste du Sud” offers no compassion or care for those wounded by clergy sex abuse, and no accountability or consequence for clergy who commit abuse.

It’s awful stuff, but it’s real. So I’m glad that at least some people are learning the truth.

After all, the Southern Baptist Convention is an evangelical faith group that is intent on going to “all nations” and “teaching them.” (Matthew 28:19-20) So it certainly behooves those in other nations to consider exactly who these “teachers” really are and to assess the sort of values that they actually manifest.

Why should people in other nations care about the teachings of a faith group that turns its back on protecting “the least of these”? Why should people in other nations care about the teachings of a faith group that allows clergy predators to church-hop without anyone imposing accountability? Why should people in other nations care about the teachings of a faith group whose own institutional integrity is so utterly tainted?

Bowles’ review was published earlier by the Times Literary Supplement of London (which is sort of like a British version of the New York Times Review of Books). Now it has been translated into French and republished in this Parisian magazine. Bravo to Patrick Lindsay Bowles!

Here is the original English version of Bowles' review from the Times Literary Supplement. And here is a pdf of the French version from Books magazine.

Related post: “In the London Times!” 4/17/2010

See also: "Church honors advocate for abuse victims," ABP, 12/7/10 ("A translation just out in the Paris publication Books magazine carries the headline, 'L’Église baptiste, paradis des pedophiles,' French for, 'The Baptist church, paradise for pedophiles'.")

Friday, December 3, 2010

Menorahs' lights bring thoughts on denial and evil

Elana's father was smuggled out of Germany as an 8-year-old boy. Her grandparents and other paternal ancestors were all annihilated in the Holocaust. Many on her mother's side were slaughtered as well.

Once a week, we walk a loop together around Town Lake. Though Elana is a decade younger, she often seems centuries wiser than me. Maybe it's because she has long pondered the dark side of humanity. Or maybe it's because she carries an ever-present awareness of mortality -- the result of facing down cancer in her 20s. Or maybe it's just in her genes. Whatever the reason, I feel graced by Elana's pragmatic, eyes-wide-open sort of wisdom.

Amidst talk of kids' colds and Texas politics, we also weigh in on weightier matters. Elana was one of the first people to whom I dared mention that I was sexually abused by a Baptist minister as an adolescent girl.

Elana came to a stand-still on the trail. She immediately saw the significance of my small statement and of the fact that I had never previously spoken of it.

Through the pink crepe myrtles of summer and the red sumacs of fall, Elana continued to listen as my story unfolded. While we fended off angry geese, she watched me work at coming to terms with the blasphemous brutality of what a Baptist minister did to me as a kid.

Elana kept on listening. She heard about my efforts at reporting the perpetrator to church and denominational leaders, and about my frustration at their grotesque oblivion.

Finally, she saw me unravel when I learned that, despite all my efforts, the man was still working in children's ministry. That's when Elana started tossing books my way.

She knows my weakness. I'm a bookaholic.

But the kinds of books Elana was tossing made no sense to me. It was all Holocaust literature -- essays, poems, and memoirs. I couldn't imagine how any of it could possibly have any bearing on the problem I was encountering.

"Denial," she said. "You need to understand a whole lot more about the dynamics of mass-scale denial."

I kept reading, but I resisted the analogy. I was uncomfortable with any comparison to the Holocaust because it seemed to trivialize the incomprehensible horror of it.

But Elana insisted. "The most important lesson of the Holocaust is about denial in the face of evil," she said. "If people think they're going to wait to see a genocide before they apply the lessons of the Holocaust, then the lessons of the Holocaust are lost."

Evil is a shape-shifter. Recognizing it with the benefit of hindsight is not so hard. The trick is seeing it when it's there in front of you, and finding a way to confront it at the time.

Why do good people do nothing in the face of evil?

That's the question posed by the Holocaust. It is an ancient question that has arisen in countless other contexts.

Incomprehensible evil is done by trusted ministers who use spiritual authority to violate kids' bodies for their own depraved ends.

Baptist leaders clearly have the power and the resources to cooperatively confront this pervasive evil. Yet they collude through silence and denial.

They blind themselves behind a self-made wall built with a perversion of autonomous polity and a faulty forgiveness theology. It is a wall that shields clergy predators and leaves kids in harm's way. No amount of labeling it "religion" will change what that wall really is.

It is moral and spiritual cowardice. It is denial in the face of evil.

As menorahs begin to light the night, I thank God for the goodness of Elana's life and for the courage of a few individuals who saw evil and took action to smuggle a small boy to safety.

And I wonder how many more seasons will pass before Baptist leaders open their eyes to the evil of clergy sex abuse and take action to keep kids safe from horrible harm.

This is a reprint of my guest column published in EthicsDaily on December 14, 2006. Despite all that I have encountered in Baptistland, I still believe that, ultimately, light will prevail over darkness.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


In Georgia, a former Southern Baptist minister pled guilty to molesting a 13-year-old girl. As reported yesterday in the Athens Banner-Herald, Norman Anthony Pugh was sentenced to 13 years in prison with another 7 years on probation.

In 2005, Pugh was arrested on similar charges when he was working as a youth minister at Georgia's Arnoldsville Baptist Church, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. At that time, he was charged with molesting a 14-year-old church girl.

Church members rallied around Pugh after that 2005 arrest. His bond was posted by the wife of the senior pastor, Nathan Palmer. (Do you think they used offering plate dollars to post Pugh’s bond?)

The case went to trial, and Pugh was acquitted in November 2006. Church members lined up in the courtroom to hug him.

How do you imagine that 14-year-old felt when she saw her whole church publicly supporting the minister?

And if any other kids were molested, how do you imagine they felt? Almost certainly, they would have squelched any possible thought of speaking up when they saw how the church rallied around the minister.

And it surely didn’t help the prosecutors any for the church to rally around the minister.

It is often very difficult for child molestation victims to have to testify in court. That’s just one of the reasons why so many of these kinds of cases are resolved with a plea bargain – prosecutors seek to spare the victim the additional trauma of testifying. But often, the way a prosecutor gains the negotiating leverage needed for a plea bargain is with evidence of other victims who speak up after the first one. But by publicly rallying around its minister after his 2005 arrest, Arnoldsville Baptist Church helped to assure that there likely wouldn’t be any others who would speak up.

So Norman Anthony Pugh went free. At that time, prosecutors were unable to prove his guilt by the strict “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of the criminal law.

Now, four years later, Pugh has been convicted of molesting a 13-year-old. He was no longer working at the church.

Do you think the people of Arnoldsville Baptist feel even a shred of remorse? Do they give any thought to how their own conduct may have helped to allow Pugh to go free and may have thereby enabled him to molest that 13-year-old in 2009 . . . and no telling how many others? Do you think they’ll seek out that church kid who reported Pugh back in 2005 and offer to pay for her counseling?

Do they even give a hoot? And if they do, what will they now do about it?

On a related note, I received an email just nine days ago, on November 22, from a guy who signed off as “William J. Tarbush,” and whose email address was for “Jeremy Tarbush.” He told me it was “deplorable” that I had posted Norman Pugh’s name with a link to the news article about Pugh's 2009 arrest.

Tarbush ranted a bit and made this complaint: “Norman Pugh is not even on the list of sex offenders in the State of Georgia for sex crimes.”

I guess Tarbush thinks the only people we should be concerned about are people who show up on a sex offender registry . . . even though virtually all experts recognize that the vast majority of active child molesters have never been criminally convicted and won't show up on a sex offender registry.

Ordinarily, I would ignore an email like the one from William J. (Jeremy) Tarbush. But since his timing was so poor – just 8 days before Pugh’s guilty plea -- I'm going to respond a bit.

Tarbush closed his email with “In His Service.” I don’t think so. That’s just Tarbush’s own no-thought-required religious rationalization for his rant. Heck . . . I once saw a letter in which a prominent Southern Baptist official was threatening to sue a blogger, and he signed the bullying letter “In His Name.” It would be comical if it weren’t so pompously pathetic.

In any event, I believe that “In His Service” would mean looking out for “the least of these.” But when it comes to clergy sex abuse, Southern Baptists are far too wrapped up in looking out for the ministers. “The least of these” seem to be “the least of” their concerns.

And as for what’s “deplorable?” It’s churches like Arnoldsville Baptist when they turn their backs on kids who report clergy sex abuse. It’s Southern Baptist officials when they choose to do nothing at all about ministers who are reported for clergy sex abuse. It’s the Southern Baptist Convention when it persistently refuses to institute the bare-basic safeguard that other major faith groups have of allowing outside review for clergy abuse reports and when it refuses to even keep records on credibly accused clergy sex abusers.

All of that is what’s “deplorable” … along with the fact that the news reports of Baptist clergy abuse and cover-ups keep growing, and the denomination keeps doing nothing.