Thursday, August 30, 2007

Boy Scouts and Baptists: a comparison

The Seattle Times and CBS Evening News report that, over the last 60 years, at least 5,100 Boy Scout leaders were kicked out because of sexual abuse allegations.

Thank God for two brothers whose courage and perseverance brought this truth to light! In SNAP and StopBaptistPredators, we stand in solidarity with these brave survivors. Other Scout victims can find help here.

While you’re pondering this disturbing news about the Boy Scouts, consider this. At least the Boy Scouts were keeping records, and at least the Boy Scouts had kicked these men out of the Scouts. That’s more than what Southern Baptists are doing.

How many Southern Baptist ministers have been kicked out for sexual abuse allegations? As best I can tell, Southern Baptists simply don’t do this. They don’t kick ministers out based on sexual abuse allegations -- they just quietly let accused ministers move on to new churches.

And who is keeping records on abuse allegations against Southern Baptist leaders? Again, as best I can tell, no one.

Victims try to report abuse, but no one wants to hear them. They are literally turned away.

Without any record-keeping, how can anyone possibly know which Southern Baptist ministers have been reported for sexual abuse? Or how many reports have been made against them?

Southern Baptist officials seem to believe that, if no one keeps records of abuse, then abuse doesn’t happen. But this is a very dangerous game of pretend they play, and one that puts kids at grave risk. (Remember just a few months ago when SBC spokesman Will Hall suggested there had been only 40 Baptist abuse “incidents” in the past 15 years? Such foolishness!)

Southern Baptist officials may clench their eyes, cover their ears, and sing “lalalalalalalala”, but it won’t make the problem go away.

Insurance companies report that, over the last 15 to 20 years, an average of 260 sexual abuse claims per year were made against Protestant ministers, and these companies insure more Southern Baptist churches than any other group. (This data comes to us thanks to the Associated Press and no thanks to Southern Baptist officials.)

That 260 number is more than the 228 “credible accusations” per year against Catholic priests. It’s also more than the 5,100 accusations that were made over a 60 year period against Boy Scout leaders.

How do I figure? If you extrapolate the average 260 claims per year over a 60 year period, that would be 15,600 claims of sexual abuse against Protestant clergy, as compared to the 5,100 against Boy Scout leaders. Pretty disturbing, huh?

Sadly, we have a good basis on which to make that calculation. All three insurance companies said the annual number of cases had remained steady during the past two decades.

Given the data, why should we not think that there have been at least 15,600 reports of sexual abuse made against Protestant clergy over the past 60 years?

Who are all those accused ministers? And why aren’t Southern Baptist officials at least keeping records on them?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Darkness won't hide elephants

On the New BBC Open Forum blog, gmommy posted these comments of courage and wisdom:

"I learned the hard way that if you don't acknowledge the elephant in the room it leaves its waste on everyone and everything and it stinks.

The elephant sat on me, smashed me and left deep wounds.

I believe with all my heart....and my children expect nothing less from me.....

that I must not be destroyed by the wounds...

that I must not be silenced by the fear of more wounds...

that I must not cover them with pretty band aids and pretend all is well...

that I must do all I know in my very small way to prevent the elephant of sin and lies and evil to smash anyone else

PARTICULARLY the weak, the wounded or the innocent."

Kudos to gmommy and others who continue to call for accountability at Bellevue!

Thank God for this small band of Memphisites who had the good sense to turn away from the secrecy of church leaders whose ways seem a lot like what Southern Baptist president Frank Page was promoting just yesterday.

Page publicly urged Baptist churches to deal with their problems in a “more private fashion.” He complained that blogs have become “a place that shows the world a dark side of church politics.”

I say Hallelujah! Let’s bring still more of that darkness into the light!

Contrary to what their president says, Southern Baptist churches don’t need more privacy, secrecy, and darkness. What they need is more openness, transparency, and accountability.

Besides… no amount of darkness is really gonna hide all those stinky elephants.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lackadaisical leadership and faulty forgiveness

“We believe in forgiveness” said one of the deacons who hired the convicted sex offender at First Baptist Church of Romeoville.

Outsiders seem perplexed and ponder how any church could be so foolish as to keep a convicted sex offender in the pulpit for 3 years. The Chicago Sun-Times published an editorial about how “lackadaisical” some churches can be.

But here’s what’s really scary. It’s not just local churches. The highest levels of Southern Baptist leadership have demonstrated a lackadaisical blindness to clergy child molesters.

Just a month ago, a clergy abuse survivor wrote to a member of the SBC committee that’s supposedly studying the clergy sex abuse issue. He courageously spilled a profoundly painful report about the Southern Baptist minister who sexually abused him and another boy when they were kids.

You might imagine that a high-level Southern Baptist official would be better-educated than those Romeoville deacons, and would immediately want to look into such a report so as to assure the safety of others. You might imagine that he would extend a voice of compassion to the victim. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, the Southern Baptist official wrote this back to the victim:

“I would like to direct your attention to Ephesians 4:31-32: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Did you get that? Rather than doing anything about the reported perpetrator, who is still in ministry, he told the victim to be “forgiving.” Looks a lot like the Romeoville notion of forgiveness, doesn’t it? It's the kind of forgiveness that leaves kids at risk.

And remember when ABC's 20/20 correspondent told Southern Baptist president Frank Page that 20/20 found convicted child molesters on the SBC’s registry of ministers? What happened? Nothing….at least not until still more media coverage was mustered.

In fact, rather than immediately getting those convicted child molesters off the SBC’s registry, still another high-level Southern Baptist official, Augie Boto, publicly justified and defended the fact that the SBC kept them on!

Is it any wonder that churches like Romeoville get confused when their own national leaders spout such inanity in the Baptist Press?

And what about the state Southern Baptist leaders in Illinois? Did they know about Romeoville? Why didn’t they do anything?

Well…let’s not forget that the Illinois Baptist State Association is the same Southern Baptist group that fired its Illinois Press editor when he published news that a prominent minister had been charged with multiple counts of sexually assaulting teen girls. It appears the Illinois Baptist leadership thought it was something people didn’t need to know.

Is it any wonder Baptist churches keep quiet about clergy sex abusers? Look at the example set by their leaders. It’s an example that says “Keep your mouths shut.”

Churches like Romeoville get the message.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

For Christ's sake, do something!

Southern Baptist president Frank Page issued a call for more civil discourse. He’s “sick and tired” of all the blogs and websites about church conflict and denominational disagreements. “For Christ’s sake, stop!” he says.

Page voices concern about lost souls and says that the “witness” of Southern Baptists “is being diluted” by all the public conflict. “When newspaper reporters are called and church conflict becomes known in the newspaper…what do you think this does when lost people read it?”

I wonder if Page realizes that this is almost exactly what countless church leaders have used to silence victims when they try to tell about clergy sex abuse?
  • “It will hurt the church.”

  • “It will cause people to lose faith.”

  • "It will hurt the witness that the church bears forth into the community."

I’ve heard too many versions of this twisted justification for Southern Baptists’ do-nothing attitude toward clergy sex abuse.

Of course, I think Page’s comments were actually directed more toward Baptist bloggers, such as SBCOutpost, and not specifically toward StopBaptistPredators. Still…I’ve heard from so many abuse survivors who have been fed some version of this “don’t hurt the church” line that I couldn’t help but see the parallel.

And frankly, compared to the brutality of abuse and blind-eyedness that so many Baptist leaders have inflicted on the people I hear from, most of the internecine conflicts on the Baptist blogs just seem inconsequential. They fight over styles of worship and private prayer language, and meanwhile, clergy child molesters stay in their pulpits. To me, it looks like they’re fighting over how many angels fit on the head of a pin, while real live kids remain at risk from clergy-perpetrators whom others have attempted to report...but there was no one who would hear them.

It is only a false veneer of civility that would leave so many clergy child molesters in their pulpits.

There is nothing civil about avoiding conflict while leaving wolves on the loose. There is nothing civil about sermonizing to the wounded on forgiveness in order to re-shame them into silence. And no Ephesians 4 Bible verse tagged after it is going to alter the hurtful incivility of that.

It’s ironic that Page would publicly complain about those who call newspaper reporters on the very day that the Chicago Sun-Times printed an editorial about a Southern Baptist church that knowingly kept a convicted child molester in the pulpit for 3 years. (More on the Chicago story here and here .)

Thank God for newspaper reporters! And thank God for their good work! Plenty of Southern Baptist leaders knew about this convicted sex offender in the pulpit, but nothing got done about it. Only after newspaper reporters were called did anything actually get done.

That’s a sad statement, but it’s reality. It wasn't church or denominational leaders that got the predator out of the pulpit.

If Dr. Page were truly concerned about souls, he would find a way to rid this denomination’s ranks of clergy predators and to address the soul-murdering impact of their horrific conduct.

For Christ’s sake, and for the sake of kids, do something!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Words of my mouth...

"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer."

"Recois favorablement les paroles de ma bouche et les sentiments de mon coeur, O Eternel, mon rocher et mon liberateur!"

Today I’m doing 5 short live TV interviews on MSNBC about the Chicago Sun-Times story on First Baptist Church of Romeoville. Here's the video clip for the first one.

How did a reserved and ultra-private person like me ever get to this place? Most days I haven’t a clue. I just hope and pray that my words may be useful and may be of help to someone.

Whenever I speak publicly, it is this prayer that always fills my heart. Before the 20/20 interview, it was such a constant presence in my head that I could scarcely escape it.

I worried constantly. Was I even capable of speaking about this in front of a camera crew? Would I gag on camera? Would I shake uncontrollably? Would I hyperventilate and find myself unable to breathe? Back then, I wasn’t sure.

Even if I was capable of speaking about this for 20/20, would I speak well? Would my words serve a good purpose? Would they help anyone?

I worried until just as I arrived at the interview site. It was at a little chapel in the woods, and as soon as I opened the car door, I heard them. The cedar waxwings were everywhere. They filled the treetops. They filled the sky. They were flitting back and forth. They surrounded me.

I smiled and felt a wave of relief. I knew that all was well.

The cedar waxwings have long been a sort of good harbinger for me. So their presence there at that moment seemed almost magical.

I don’t think I’ll see any cedar waxwings today. It’s not the right time of year. But I still feel their presence in the belief that what I’m doing is right.

However difficult it may be to speak about clergy sex abuse, I am always grateful for the opportunity. I believe the more we speak of it, the less likely this horror will be inflicted on someone else.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Pastoral care"

I grew up watching Billy Graham on TV and always felt the power of his words. Some teenagers long to go to rock concerts, but what I longed for was to hear Billy Graham in person. So I was thrilled when I got to go to one of his crusades.

He’s on the cover of this week’s TIME magazine. The article is about his “pastoral care” for the presidents.

I paused over the “pastoral care” phrase. To my ears, it seemed like an oxymoron.

“Pastoral” and “care” are contradictory words that just don’t go together based on what I’ve seen of how Southern Baptist pastors deal with clergy abuse survivors.

Pastoral bullying. Pastoral abuse. Pastoral intimidation. Pastoral shaming. Pastoral self-righteousness. Pastoral cover-ups. Pastoral con-men. Pastoral blind-eyedness. Pastoral oblivion. Pastoral falsity. Pastoral perpetrators.

I can think of lots of words I would place with “pastoral” but “care” isn’t one of them.

That’s a sad statement, I know.

That’s why I cried over the Billy Graham article. It reminds me of the person I used to be and of all that I once believed in. It reminds me of the person I was before a Southern Baptist pastor started using Bible verses as weapons for sexual abuse. It reminds me of all that was stolen from me, not only by the pastoral-perpetrator, but by all the other Southern Baptist pastors who turned a blind-eye….over and over again….then and now. It reminds me of the person I was even a few years ago, before I heard so many other abuse survivors’ stories and realized what a hurtful and hateful pattern was being perpetrated by Southern Baptist pastors all across the land. I would have so much rather believed that my story was a rarity….but it’s not.

From the many survivors I’ve heard from over the course of the past year, I believe that most Southern Baptist pastors would prefer to drag us out to the desert and stone us than to show us any genuine care. These men are NOT good shepherds, and they will not bind the wounds of sheep who have been savaged in the ways that we have.

Are there some exceptions? Of course. But so far, the exceptions have been so few in number that they cannot displace the great weight of hurtfulness that I’ve seen among Southern Baptist pastors toward clergy abuse survivors.

Perhaps another reason I cry when I read about Billy Graham is because that relentless optimist in me wants so desperately to believe that there are indeed a few good pastors whose actions conform with the words they preach. I’ve seen so much to the contrary that I cling to that belief with only a thread… and for reasons I scarcely comprehend. Why cling at all?

But I believe at least this much about Billy Graham. Even with all his greatness, I think he always knew better than to try to play God. A lot of other Southern Baptist pastors could learn from that.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Clergy child molesters roam freely

Today’s news: Credibly accused Catholic priests are “roaming freely.” They were booted from the priesthood and their names are listed on the Philadelphia Archdiocese’ website. But they aren’t on any sex offender registry because they’ve never been convicted of anything.

That’s true of most clergy child molesters – they’ve never been convicted.

“So the only way the public can take precautions is if people happen to learn” through the press “that a predator is in their midst.” In this instance, it was the Orlando Sentinel that informed the public about credibly-accused Philadelphia priests who had moved to Florida.

These priests were brought to light, and the press was able to report on them, because the archdiocese made a determination that the claims were “credible.”

The priests still roam freely, but at least the public could be warned.

That’s a whole lot better than what happens with Southern Baptist clergy predators. No one makes any determination of whether claims are credible; no one acknowledges credible accusations; and no one posts credibly accused clergy. This makes it far more difficult for the press to report on accused Baptist clergy. And this usually means that the public never find out about them.

Catholic priest child molesters are at least removed from ministry. Southern Baptist clergy child molesters aren’t. They’re able to “roam freely” AS MINISTERS, moving from one congregation to another, with no denominational leader stopping them or making any effort to assess the credibility of child molestation reports against them.

While people legitimately complain that the Catholic Church doesn’t track credibly accused priests after they’re removed from ministry, it should be noted that Southern Baptists don’t even track accused clergy child molesters while they’re IN ministry.

Like complicit Catholic bishops, countless Southern Baptist ministers, deacons and denominational leaders have turned a blind eye to accusations of abuse, and in so doing, abetted clergy-predators in allowing them to roam freely from congregation to congregation.

Southern Baptist leaders claim they’re different from all those complicit bishops because Southern Baptist churches are autonomous. In essence, Southern Baptist leaders are claiming they have a biblical right to turn a blind eye. I don’t buy it. That’s not in my Bible.

Autonomy schmonomy.

Do you really believe that a powerful organization like this can’t figure out a way to provide at least the minimal sorts of protective measures that other faith groups provide? Its leaders stand in the oval office with the President of the United States, but when it comes to protecting kids, they throw up their hands and say, “We’re powerless.” (That’s SBC Executive Committee president Morris Chapman and SBC president Frank Page with the President.)

SBC general counsel Augie Boto recently bragged that the Southern Baptist Convention has NEVER had a judgment rendered against it in its entire existence, since 1845. So this huge tentacular organization obviously has some pretty smart lawyers.

This makes it all the more apparent that, if the Southern Baptist Convention really wanted to, it would find a legal way to implement a denominational registry of credibly-accused Southern Baptist clergy child molesters.

The question is this: Why don’t they care about protecting kids as much as they care about protecting themselves?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Submission and authority"

Jerry Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville and prior SBC v.p., used $4300 in church money to pay for his daughter’s wedding reception. The Associated Press reports that Sutton’s former administrative assistant also accused him of looking at pornography on his church computer and of having an “affair” with a church staff member.

I can’t help but wonder whether Sutton’s administrative assistant became a “former” because she didn’t keep her mouth shut. Maybe it was something like what Kaye Maher went through at the church of former Florida Baptist Convention president, Dwayne Mercer. She was an administrative assistant who lost her job at FBC-Oviedo when she didn’t stay quiet. When Maher complained about two ministers’ “inappropriate sexual conduct,” she found that she herself was “put on trial,” asked to leave, and told not to repeat the accusations.

Two Rivers claims that “the church investigated” and “found no evidence.” Uh-huh. If you believe that, you’ve probably got the mind-set of a cultist, and evidence is probably immaterial to you anyway.

Sutton’s own administrative assistant said that Sutton looked at pornography on church computers. That’s eyewitness testimony. You don’t have to believe the testimony, but it does at least constitute some “evidence.” Duhhhh.

The problem isn’t that there was “no evidence.” It’s that the church leaders are in total control, and their standard of what constitutes “evidence” simply deletes whatever they don’t want to see or hear.

“There has to be submission and authority,” says Two Rivers’ executive pastor Scott Hutchings. Uh-huh. That Borgian statement makes me think the church’s so-called investigators probably just intimidated any witnesses whose views they didn’t like.

It reminds me of what I heard about the sort of investigation that was done at Bellevue, another prominent Southern Baptist church in Tennessee.

“Two Rivers is the home church for many Southern Baptist bureaucrats, and Sutton is the pastor to the people who do the day-to-day decision-making of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Do you get the picture, folks? Is it any wonder that Southern Baptist officials sit back and do nothing about clergy abuse reports when this is the sort of pastor who leads their own church in Nashville?

Is it any wonder that other Southern Baptist churches handle clergy abuse reports so miserably when SBC officials’ own home-church responds to a sexual misconduct report with a proclamation on “submission and authority”?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jump the ropes!

When a survivor fights to expose a clergy child molester, no Southern Baptist official is in your corner. They all go to the opposite corner.

But here’s the worst part. There’s no referee in the ring. It’s a gang fight, and you’re on your own. It’s a rigged fight, and you’re expendable.

So here’s my advice. Get the heck out of that ring!

What is it that keeps clergy abuse survivors in that ring? For me, it was my own unrelenting, incessant optimism. It was my own belief that good people would ordinarily act in good ways, and that if I just tried hard enough, I would surely find someone who would do the right thing. Or that if I just tried hard enough, I would surely find the right words to make them understand. It was my own failure to realize the extent to which basic human goodness can be overrun by the human capacity for denial in the face of evil. All of that was what kept me in that ring for way too long.

Maybe for you it’s something else. Maybe it’s about faith, family or fear. Whatever it is that keeps you in that ring, find a way out of it.

Jump the ropes; kick out the back door; run down the alley. Get yourself out of there!

Find a way to take on the fight on your own terms and in your own way. I know you want to expose the truth about your perpetrator and about the people who covered up for him, and that you want others to be warned, and that you want healing and reconciliation. You’re entitled to all of that, but they aren’t going to help you. They’ll hurt you. Get out of that ring!

As long as you stay in that ring, they will pound you against the ropes, pummel you to a pulp, and kick you when you’re down. When they’re done, they won’t even drop your body at the hospital.

This is a psychological metaphor of course. But we survivors know all too well that psychological wounds can shatter us even more than broken bones. So get yourself out of that ring!

I haven’t talked with a single Southern Baptist survivor who has gotten help from state or national leaders. Not one. I haven’t talked with a single Southern Baptist survivor who has gotten help from the perpetrator’s church, past or present. Not one.

What I have talked with are far too many Southern Baptist survivors who have been shamed, shunned, manipulated, exploited, threatened and bullied. This is the norm. This is what Baptist leaders do. It’s extremely hurtful. It’s why you MUST figure out what it is that keeps you in that ring and get yourself out of it.

Nowadays, with every abuse survivor I hear from, my optimism is inspired by their courage. (Yes, I know some of you don’t feel courageous, but what I see is that you keep stepping forward in spite of it all. That’s courage.) In the light of our stories, I see the hope for a safer future for others. In the miracle of a couple survivors who contacted me on the same day naming the same perp, I see that truth will eventually prevail. In a small band from Bellevue, who keep insisting on accountability, I see that cover-ups can’t stay covered. In 8600 messengers who voted for a clergy predator database, I see that, sooner or later, ordinary believers will demand change. In conscientious reporters who keep working to bring the stories to light, I see that “no lie lives forever.”

I haven’t given up my optimism...but my optimism isn’t in that ring.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

How can Baptist dads do nothing?

When I first learned that Southern Baptist president Frank Page had 3 daughters, I was surprised. How could a dad to 3 daughters settle for a rote recitation of the “autonomy” excuse instead of taking action against clergy child molesters?

But of course, plenty of other blind-eyed Baptist leaders are also dads. SBC official Augie Boto is a family man with 3 kids. Steve Gaines has 4 kids. Sam Underwood has 3. Tom Messer has 4. Jim Moore has 2 daughters and several grand-kids. The list could go on and on.

I look at that picture of Jim Moore with his lovely granddaughter, and I ponder how such a man could know about another minister’s abuse of me as a kid and yet stay silent about it for 30 years, while allowing the perpetrator to go right on working with kids. How could this minister/dad who was my piano teacher choose to turn a blind eye, and how could he make the same choice a second time when I tried again as an adult to report the abuse?

How does he look at himself in the mirror? And yet, I’m sure he does. He’s a proud man.

How would a man like that feel if someone had done to one of his daughters what was done to me? Or if it was done to one of his grand-daughters?

If the kid of one of those men had been molested or raped by a Baptist minister, and they didn’t find out about it until it was too late for prosecution, would they be content to recite their usual line: “Nothing can be done…all Baptist churches are autonomous”? Would they still be content if they saw the perpetrator standing in the pulpit of another church?

Do they imagine that this is something that happens only to other people’s kids? Even if that’s what they think, aren’t other people’s kids also worth protecting?

Do any of them have kids who are disabled, disfigured, or just different in some way? Studies show that those sorts of kids are even more likely to be preyed upon by child molesters.

But in reality, no kid is safe. ALL kids have their own unique vulnerabilities.

That vulnerability is the very scent that predators hone in on. And clergy child molesters have a uniquely advantageous position of trust that aids them in their exploitation of kids’ vulnerabilities.

How can men who are dads not feel the need to do everything possible to protect kids against this terrible crime that so savages body, soul and psyche? Why does that instinct not live within them?

I will never understand the blind-eyed, do-nothing attitude of so many Baptist dads. It seems inhuman to me. It even seems unmammalian. An ordinary mother bear would do more. A water buffalo would do more.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Even buffaloes rout predators

Even water buffaloes rout predators, protect the young, and go back for the wounded. Southern Baptist church kids would be a whole lot safer if Southern Baptist officials would learn a lesson from the buffaloes.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Prosecutors know what the SBC ignores

The National District Attorneys Association met last week and unanimously adopted a resolution calling on state legislators to reform statute of limitation laws that govern the ability of child sex abuse victims to pursue criminal and civil actions.

The resolution recognizes that "many victims of childhood sexual abuse do not equate the injuries they have suffered, or are continuing to suffer, with the abuse perpetrated upon them as a child until well into adulthood." Consequently, national prosecutors are acutely aware of why "most of these crimes go unreported for many years," and as a result, "most of these offenders escape responsibility for their criminal actions."

Prosecutor Susan Gaertner, who pushed for the resolution, emphasized that the problem of child sex abuse is much larger than most people realize. "The sexual abuse of children is not limited to any one religion, class of people or geographic area."

Prosecutor James Backstrom pointed out that, because there is often a delay in reporting and rarely physical evidence, most prosecutions are not successful. “For this reason,” he said, “it is obvious that the criminal justice system cannot solve this enormous problem on its own.... It is imperative that we explore a multitude of ways to expose the perpetrators of these crimes and prevent further victimization.”

Marci Hamilton, a New York law professor and board member for the National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children, said, “It is unfortunate that most child predators are never prosecuted.... our nation's prosecutors understand that.”

Tragically, the former prosecutor who advises the Southern Baptist Convention is an exception. He does NOT seem to understand that.

In the Baptist Press, Augie Boto stated that "the proper investigatory panel for Baptists should be law enforcement officials." Yet, as a former prosecutor, Boto certainly ought to be aware of the reality that prosecutors all across the country confirm -- i.e., that most child predators are never prosecuted. He says: "The SBC strongly advises the immediate report of suspected child abuse"... as though this "advice" would solve the problem. Yet, this nation's prosecutors unanimously know that "most of these crimes go unreported for many years." That's the real world, and by pretending the world is otherwise, the SBC leaves kids at risk. The reality is that most victims CANNOT report abuse because the psychological damage is so great. Prosecutors know this; the SBC seems oblivious.

The practical impact of Boto's view is that, for Southern Baptists, as long as a clergy child molester can avoid criminal conviction, he can remain in the pulpit, and usually people in the pews won't even be warned. Since most child predators are never prosecuted, much less convicted, this means that a whole lot of Southern Baptist clergy predators can easily remain in positions of trust...because the denomination does not provide an alternative way of exposing them such as most other mainline faith groups do.

Why should anyone really care what Boto thinks? Because this is the man who is general counsel for the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee and Vice-President for Convention Policy. He is the SBC staff person who assists and advises the subcommittee that has been tasked with trying to figure out how the SBC should handle the clergy sex abuse problem. If the SBC's primary adviser is insisting that law enforcement is the proper way to expose clergy predators (while remaining apparently oblivious to the reality that most predators can't be prosecuted), then it doesn't seem likely that the SBC will take effective action. And if the denomination doesn't take action to expose clergy predators, then most of the time those predators will remain hidden... because law enforcement has its hands tied by statutes of limitation.

To prevent additional victims, "it is imperative" that there be alternative ways to expose child molesters who often mask themselves in positions of trust and authority. This is the reality that other mainline faith groups have already recognized and it is the reason they provide review boards for hearing clergy abuse reports. How much longer will Southern Baptist leaders stand on the sidelines?

Send an email to the SBC’s subcommittee and urge them to bring in outside consultants, other religious leaders who have set up review boards, professionals in the field, and clergy abuse survivors to help them in effectively addressing this issue that affects the safety of so many kids. Clearly, the SBC's subcommittee needs to be getting information and advice from sources other than just Boto.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Baptist Press reports on "misunderstood" pedophiles

The Baptist Press writes that "there is a new movement to view pedophiles as misunderstood and unjustly persecuted." At first, I thought they were talking about themselves -- i.e., a new movement among Southern Baptists. I hear from a lot of clergy abuse survivors who got lectures on forgiveness when they tried to report the perpetrator to Southern Baptist leaders, and so it made some bizarre sense to me that the Baptist Press would be talking about the "misunderstood pedophile."

Of course, they're really talking about others. That's what Southern Baptist leaders seem good at...rather than taking a hard look at themselves.

The article complains about a dead psychiatrist's book and quotes it saying: "Older children may be helped to appreciate that sexual encounters between an adult and child are not universally considered to be reprehensible acts. The child might be told about other societies in which such behavior was and is considered normal...."

The Baptist Press seems to view this as something new. Yet, I'm sure many Baptist abuse survivors have tried to report exactly this sort of grooming behavior committed by Baptist clergy child molesters...and been ignored.

Countless Baptist clergy predators have inflicted this very sort of brainwashing on their adolescent prey. Kids are told that they're called to serve God in this way, that men in the Bible had more than one wife and had concubines, that this is normal, and that people who aren't as close to God wouldn't understand. For Baptist clergy predators, the "other societies in which such behavior is considered normal" are the biblically righteous societies of God's chosen people, and that's the sick message they often fill the brain of their prey with.

I too am offended by anyone who would be dismissive of the terrible harm that is caused by adults who have sex with kids. But I can't help but think the Baptist Press might accomplish more good if, rather than writing about a dead psychiatrist's book, it would take a strong stand against the modern-day lack of accountability in Southern Baptist churches. So many more kids could be better protected if Southern Baptist leaders would get the beam out of their own eyes and take a look at the many ways that they themselves are silently complicit in failing to take action against clergy sex abuse.

The Baptist Press points out that "normal decent people" still view pedophilia "as a gross perversion." This may be true in talk, but actions speak louder than words. Based on their actions, many Southern Baptist leaders do not appear to view pedophilia as anything more than mere "sin," "moral failure," or "sexual misconduct."

If Southern Baptist leaders really viewed pedophilia as something so horrible, then the Baptist Press would be reporting on all the many accounts of Southern Baptist clergy who have been convicted of and credibly accused of child molestation and child rape. And they would use their press to warn people in the pews about them. But they don't. For the most part, people find out about Baptist clergy abuse from EthicsDaily, the Associated Press, television news, and just about everywhere else except the Baptist Press. It appears the Baptist Press thinks the pedophilia problem is worthy of coverage only if it doesn't hit too close to home.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Put your lawyer hats on

In June, the Baptist General Convention of Texas changed the wording of its policy on church reporting of clergy sex abuse. Under the BGCT’s prior policy, the BGCT would put a minister’s name in its secret file “if the minister confesses to the abuse or sexual misconduct; there is a legal conviction; or there is substantial evidence that the abuse took place.” The determination of “substantial evidence” was made by the attorneys for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Under the new policy, the BGCT will put a minister’s name in that secret file based on a confession, a conviction, or if the church “provides a report that the sexual misconduct took place.” Thus, the essential change is that, if a church reports a minister, the BGCT will no longer review for “substantial evidence.”

The BGCT made much ado about this change and patted themselves on the back for their leadership on dealing with clergy sex abuse. They issued a statement about how they were “making it easier” for churches to report abuse to them because they were “waiving” the requirement of “substantial evidence.” (Of course, the BGCT and its advisors know that “in the normal scenario” churches don’t report abuse anyway, but that’s another issue.)

So, here’s the challenge to all you lawyers out there. Look at the change between these two documents: (1) Policy before June 2007; (2) Policy after June 2007. Put on your “lawyer-hat” and ask yourself WHY you think that change was made.

Is that a change that was designed to better protect kids against clergy predators?

Or is that a change that was designed to better protect the BGCT itself from the risk of potential liability?

I’m not asking about whatever possible argument you might be able to make. I’m asking what you, in your own mind, really believe is the most likely explanation for that sort of change.

If the BGCT was genuinely focused on trying to better protect kids against clergy predators, is that the manner in which they would have focused their effort? Are they looking after others, or are they looking after themselves?

Every lawyer I talk with says it’s a no-brainer. “Duhhhhhhh…….” The BGCT is looking after itself. The BGCT appears to be washing its hands of the matter in order to remove the appearance of exercising control and in order to better protect itself against potential liability.

It’s plenty bad enough that the BGCT does diddly-squat for the protection of kids against clergy predators, but for them to spin that diddly-squat into braggadocio is pure illusion.