Monday, November 26, 2007

SBC president gives reason FOR predator database

Just before Thanksgiving, reporter Peter Smith of the Louisville Courier-Journal interviewed Southern Baptist president Frank Page and asked him about sexual abuse and whether the Southern Baptist Convention should adopt a registry. He was talking about the sort of registry that 8600 Southern Baptist messengers supported when they voted to have the SBC Executive Committee study the feasibility of creating a database of credibly accused clergy sex abusers.

Page’s answer was revealing. Take a look:

Q. You've had to deal with the issue of sexual abuse (with advocates for victims seeking stricter policies against abusers in the ministry). Can you tell me your feelings about whether the convention should adopt a registry or a policy on sexual abuse?

A. I can only tell you that the Executive Committee is dealing with this. I have met with them on more than one occasion. I have met with our general counsel, the attorney who's in charge of the subcommittee that's dealing with this. We continue to look for ways to empower churches to deal with these issues. The issue of a registry is still under consideration, but (we have been told) that a national registry is not the way to best protect children. For example, if we were to have a national registry, what we know happens with true abusers, they just switch to another denomination that doesn't access a denominational database. We have stated over and over that a local church is where abuse occurs, and the local church is where protection must be strongest….

Though Page indicates his view that a registry is "not the way," he then proceeds unwittingly to give the reason for why there SHOULD be a registry.

If perps switch to denominations that don’t have a database, and if Southern Baptists persist in not having a database, then perps will gravitate to Southern Baptist churches.

By refusing to keep records, the largest Protestant denomination in the land is essentially opening its doors to clergy child molesters.

Over 700 Catholic priests have been removed from ministry based on "credible accusations" but have never been convicted of anything. What’s to prevent them from switching to the Southern Baptist faith and working as ministers in Southern Baptist churches? Conceivably, if they could get a foot-hold as a volunteer youth minister in a small church, they could start the process of moving from church to church and there would be no denominational database to track them.

And if Page is so concerned about the possibility that Southern Baptist perps might simply switch to denominations that don’t have registries, why couldn’t Southern Baptists make their database available to people in Bible churches, or in independent Baptist churches or in other groups?

Does Page’s answer make any sense? Does anyone really believe that the reason Southern Baptist leaders don’t want to establish a predator database is because they’re worried that Southern Baptist clergy-perps may simply switch to other denominations that lack a database?

When Southern Baptist leaders give such nonsensical excuses, it’s obvious something more is going on. I think Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest Divinity School, may have been on to them when he said that if the SBC “acknowledges an oversight role on curbing abuse, it exposes itself to lawsuits.”

Is this the real reason why Southern Baptist leaders don’t implement oversight measures similar to what other faith groups have done?

Are they simply choosing to protect themselves against the risk of lawsuits rather than protecting kids against clergy child molesters?


rebecca70 said...

Just a thought: Perhaps if the SBC does not have to see (in black and white) a list of predators names from among its ranks, it can remain in a state of denial. It has long been the "Southern" way to "look the other way," instead of facing a problem head-on and finding a solution.

Christa Brown said...

rebecca70: Welcome to the blog! I've often thought the same thing - i.e., that they're afraid of keeping a database because it would show the extent of the problem in their ranks...and they're more comfortable not seeing that.