Friday, February 27, 2009

Here's a Baptist database

The Baptist General Convention of Texas created a database. But it has nothing to do with tracking credibly-accused clergy predators.

Instead, the largest state-wide Baptist convention in the country implemented a “customer-relations management system.” It tracks church giving records and other church statistics. Eventually, it will also track product sales to churches.

They created this “customer-relations” database at a cost of $2.14 million.

Did you catch that? In tough times, the Baptist General Convention of Texas took $2.14 million of offering plate dollars and used it to create a database that would track the “giving records” of churches.

Do you think the people who gave all those hard-earned dollars would appreciate knowing that their offering plate money went for a database so that state convention bureaucrats could keep track of churches’ “giving records”?

Or do you think most people in Baptist pews would have preferred to see a database that would track credibly-accused clergy predators and that would keep their kids safer?

Which sort of database do YOU think would have been a better use for $2.14 million?

Consulting fees comprised $484,000 of the $2.14 million. I can't help but wonder whether those consultants may have been related to high-n-mighties in the Baptist building in Dallas? According to Spiritual Samurai, honchos at the Baptist General Convention of Texas don’t seem to have much problem with using offering plate dollars to hire their relatives.

Remember Spiritual Samurai? He’s the courageous Baptist pastor, David Montoya, who brought to light the “Valleygate” scandal in 2007. The Baptist General Convention of Texas lost $1.3 million in misappropriated church-starting funds, and if it hadn’t been for Montoya’s dogged determination, the whole mess would have probably been swept under the rug.

“The investigative team faulted the BGCT Executive Board for poor oversight...” and said that staff had “allowed the misuse to occur.”

So did the BGCT learn anything from that experience? You have to wonder when you see $2.14 million being spent on a “customer-relations” database.

I’m reminded of the conversation I once had with a BGCT official who kept tossing out the phrase “good stewardship” as an explanation for why the BGCT couldn’t do anything more about clergy sex abuse.

I was pleading with him: “Even if you can’t do anything to rout out the clergy-predators, can’t you at least minister to the wounded?”

He answered that they had a responsibility to make the best possible use of God’s money. “Good stewardship,” he said.

But how can these guys even pretend to know the meaning of “good stewardship”? Look at their track record. These are people who let $1.3 million slip through their fingers without oversight and who just spent $2.14 million on a “customer-relations” database.

And by the way… is this what the Baptist arm of the body of Christ is called now? “Customers”?

It’s no wonder so many Baptist officials act more like corporate CEOs than religious leaders. They might as well be trying to sell cigarettes.

But wait… that gives the Baptist honchos too much credit. You would likely find more systems for accountability and oversight among tobacco company executives than you would among Baptist convention bureaucrats.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Long road

Last week, a woman made public the fact that a priest was found to have sexually abused her when she was a minor. As reported in the San Antonio Express-News, the abuse occurred in 1980 and the priest’s religious order validated the woman’s claim in 2007. However, the religious order didn’t publicize its finding so as to reach out to other possible victims. So the woman herself finally made the information public.

Obviously, the religious order should have taken onto its own shoulders the burden of making the information public, and there’s no good excuse for the fact that it didn’t. However, look at all the other good things that happened in this story -- things that almost certainly would NOT have happened if this woman had been a Southern Baptist abuse survivor.

  • The priest, Charles H. Miller, “was forced to resign two years ago after his religious order validated a claim that he sexually abused an underage woman.”

    For Baptists, there is no established process for validating claims.

  • The religious order “wrote her a letter in 2007 deeming her claim ‘credible.’”

    For Baptists, there is no process for assessing whether an abuse claim is “credible.” Nor is there any process for giving a survivor a letter with the result of an abuse report assessment. Such letters are extremely important because, even when a diocese doesn’t publicly disclose the result of its assessment, the letters provide the media with documentation that they can report and they provide an independent organization with the information on which they have been able to compile a database of credibly-accused abusive priests. (

  • The religious order “barred Miller, now 75, from public ministry.”

    For Baptists, there is no process for barring men from ministry.

  • The Catholic “review board backed the woman and offered her therapy.”

    For Baptists, there is no “review board” to which a report can be made and there is no policy of offering therapy to the victims.

  • The woman wrote a second letter to the religious order in 2007 -- a formal complaint -- “specifically requesting its review board take up the matter.”

    For Baptists, there is no established process for making a “formal complaint” and there is no “review board” that will consider a clergy abuse matter.

  • “She also wrote the Archdiocese of San Antonio, which she thinks helped expedite her complaint.”

    For Baptists, it typically does no good whatsoever when an abuse survivor writes to the regional or statewide organization. There is no process for receiving complaints from abuse survivors, much less any possibility of expediting a complaint.

  • “U.S. bishops crafted the landmark charter policy in 2002….”

    For Baptists, no national policy yet exists for systematically addressing clergy sex abuse within the denomination.

Make no mistake about it: U.S. bishops didn’t craft their 2002 policy out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it in response to massive media pressure.

It took the voices of hundreds of survivors to bring that change to fruition.

SNAP had been working to expose the Catholic problem for over a decade before that 2002 policy was enacted. It was a very long road.

It continues to be a long road as SNAP works to hold Catholic leaders accountable to the very standards that they themselves adopted. That’s one of the significant benefits of systematized standards -- they at least provide a yardstick for assessment. Again, this is something that Baptists still don’t have.

Baptists are just beginning to set foot on the clergy accountability road that Catholics started down almost two decades ago. Baptists haven’t even gotten their shoes dusty yet. It’s going to be a long road.

But think about the potential benefit to Baptist abuse survivors who arrive further down-the-road.

This Catholic woman didn’t have to suffer the same horrors that many earlier Catholic survivors did in the reporting process. That’s a huge advancement.

For many clergy abuse survivors, the trauma of attempting to report the abuse inflicts nearly as great of wounds as the abuse itself. This was certainly true for many of the earlier Catholic abuse survivors, and to this day, it remains consistently true for almost all Baptist abuse survivors.

I hope and pray that there will come a day when Baptist abuse survivors will not be so savagely re-wounded in the reporting process.

I hope and pray that there will come a day when Baptist abuse survivors will receive the same benefits that this Catholic survivor received.

I hope and pray that there will come a day when Baptist leaders, Catholic leaders, and all other religious leaders will take on the full burden of protecting the vulnerable, reaching out to the wounded, and making public disclosure of all credibly-accused clergy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Autonomy Schmonomy

Yesterday, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee voted unanimously to continue studying whether a Texas church should be disfellowshipped for having gay members. The Committee will conduct “further inquiries.”

At issue is whether Fort Worth’s Broadway Baptist Church acts in ways that “affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”

The Executive Committee’s Executive Vice-President and General Counsel, Augie Boto, sent the church an “investigative questionnaire.”

Rather than answering Boto’s “investigative questionnaire,” the church offered a letter, explaining its position that the church extends “Christian hospitality” to everyone.

Apparently that wasn’t enough to satisfy the SBC’s Executive Committee. Some of them said the church’s declaration that it does not affirm homosexuality “seemed in tension” with its admission that 5 church members are gay, and 2 of the 5 serve on a church committee.

Given Broadway’s strong history of ministry, I can’t help but wonder whether the gay members were on a church committee that worked with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts or that worked with providing food and clothing for the homeless. But I digress… the Executive Committee’s focus was on gay members, not on ministry.

So here’s my real question. When people started rumbling about Broadway’s gay members, why didn’t the SBC Executive Committee recite the same line that they recite whenever clergy abuse survivors seek denominational help?

“Every Southern Baptist church is autonomous.”

Remember? That’s their standard excuse for why they can’t do anything about reported clergy child molesters. So why didn’t they say that to the people who complained about Broadway’s gay members?

When it comes to a church with gay members, it’s autonomy schmonomy. The SBC chooses to take action. It sends out an “investigative questionnaire.”

But when it comes to a church with a reported clergy child molester in the pulpit, the SBC throws up the autonomy wall and says, “We have no authority.”

More and more, this two-faced version of autonomy looks like a sham of an excuse.

If congregational autonomy doesn’t preclude the SBC from investigating a church with gay members, why does congregational autonomy preclude the SBC from investigating a church with a reported clergy child molester in the pulpit?

In fact, if the SBC Executive Committee wants to conduct “inquiries” on Texas churches, why don’t they start with Bolivar Baptist in Sanger, Texas? That’s the church of pastor Dickie Amyx. Remember him? He’s the guy whose best defense against child molestation allegations was to claim in sworn testimony that “I didn’t have sex with her when she was 16 or under.”

Debbie says that Amyx’ abuse began when she was 14 and that Amyx raped her when she was 15. For myself, there’s not the slightest doubt about who I believe. But even if you take Dickie Amyx at his own words, do you think such a man belongs in a Southern Baptist pulpit?

Apparently, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee doesn’t have much problem with it. Debbie sought help from them, and also from the state convention. But she didn’t get any.

I guess, from the SBC’s point of view, it’s more important to investigate a church with a few gay members helping the homeless than it is to investigate a church with an admitted sex abuser in the pulpit.

Did I mention that Debbie also has a paternity judgment against Amyx? She had to go to court to get him to support the child that he impregnated her with when she was 18.

“Dickie Amyx” is still listed as a “Senior Pastor” in the recently released 2008 SBC Annual. (See p. 491.) He and his church are also listed as being affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Denton Baptist Association.

But of course, Debbie isn’t the only one with a perpetrator still in ministry.

In the photo, you see Stephen Wilson, chair of the Executive Committee’s bylaws workgroup, on the right. I know some of you wrote to Wilson and to other Executive Committee members. Some of you even told bits of your stories and told about your perpetrators. But I haven’t heard of a single Baptist clergy abuse survivor who got assistance from Wilson or from any other SBC official.

I’m told that my own perpetrator, Tommy Gilmore, is now a member at a prominent Orlando church that’s home to an SBC Executive Committee officer. Maybe the Executive Committee should send an “investigative questionnaire” to that church to consider whether they're affirming clergy child molestation by having an unrepentant clergy child molester as a member.

I find it ironic that SBC officials would justify their continuing inquiry of Broadway Baptist on the basis of the seeming “tension” between what Broadway says -- “we do not affirm homosexual behavior” -- and what it does -- allowing 5 church members who are admittedly gay.

If “tension” between words and deeds will justify SBC “inquiries,” then this denomination should turn a giant magnifying glass on itself and its own leaders. No matter how much they may say they find clergy child molestation to be deplorable, their words are “in tension” with their deeds when they do nothing about clergy child molesters who are actually reported to them.

Information about the SBC Executive Committee's action was taken from the Associated Baptist Press and EthicsDaily.

You can read more about Debbie’s story in the Nashville Scene article, “
What would Jesus say?” and in my prior blog posting, “Start with this one.”

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Looking into that"

David Clohessy and I wrote to Southern Baptist president Johnny Hunt back on November 14, 2008. In our letter, we urged “real and meaningful action to rid the ranks of clergy predators and to minister to those who have been wounded.” We reminded him of some very specific needs:
“The only way people in the pews will find out about clergy child molesters is if victims feel safe in reporting them. And victims are never going to feel safe if they have to report abuse by going to the church of the accused minister. Telling clergy victims to "go to the church" is like telling them to go to the den of the wolf who savaged them. It is cruel to the victim and unproductive toward the end of protecting others.

This denomination needs to provide (1) a safe and welcoming place for victims to report clergy sex abuse, (2) an objective, professionally-trained panel for responsibly assessing victims' abuse reports, and (3) an efficient means of assuring that the assessment information reaches people in the pews -- i.e., a database.”
A few days ago, David Clohessy received a response at SNAP’s headquarters in Chicago. Dr. Hunt’s complete letter is set forth below, but here’s the gist: Dr. Hunt says the Southern Baptist Convention is “looking into that.”

Some of you may recall that prior SBC president Frank Page said the exact same words when he spoke with ABC’s 20/20. When asked about the many published reports of Baptist preacher predators and about the need for a denominational database to track them, Page said “I know we’re looking into that.”

Of course, Hunt and Page aren’t the only ones who seem to like that phrase. We’ve heard the same “looking into that” language from other Baptist officials as well. We’ve heard it often enough that we finally understand the unique Baptist lexicon.

In Baptist-land, “looking into that” seems to translate as “we won’t do diddly-squat.”

Let’s hope that, someday, Baptist leaders learn a new language.

You’ll notice, of course, that Dr. Hunt doesn’t actually address any of SNAP’s specific requests.

If any of you want to drop Dr. Hunt a line, his email address is

February 3, 2009
(dictated Dec. 4, 2009)

Survivors Network
Mr. David Clohessy
700 N. Green St. #504
Chicago, Illinois 60622-5474

Dear Bro. David,

Greetings to you in Jesus’ name. I trust this letter finds you doing well and abounding in Jesus.

Thank you for your letter dated November 14, 2008 concerning clergy sex abuse and cover up. You can rest assured I am concerned about this and desire the same as you do concerning the problem. In fact, during our Executive Committee meeting in September there was much discussion on this issue and what we as a denomination should do to help the problem cease. I assure you we are looking into that and you will hear more about it in the days ahead. It will come up at our national convention that meets in June 2009 in Louisville, I am sure.

What an encouragement it is to me to see folks like you and your organization so passionate about issues that are so degrading this nation and so displeasing to our blessed Lord. I commend you and encourage you to continue in the fight as the Lord leads.

I pray God’s rich and abiding blessings upon you.


Dr. Johnny M. Hunt

Mr. Clohessy,

We apologize for the delay in our office mailing Dr. Hunt’s reply to your letter. Please forgive our oversight!

Ruth Blakney
Pastor’s Administrative Assistant

Monday, February 9, 2009

If the SBC is a "church," who are its ministers?

Scanning through the 2008 Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention, I ran across this bit of information:

The Executive Committee participates in a defined contribution annuity plan (the Plan) which covers substantially all employees. The Plan is sponsored by GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention (“GuideStone”). The Executive Committee makes contributions equal to 10 % of the participant’s compensation and also matches participant contributions of 1 % for each 3 years of service not to exceed 5% of the participant’s compensation. The Plan was amended in fiscal 1992 to change early retirement from age fifty-eight to age fifty-five and to change eligibility to participate in the Plan from two full years of service to the first day of employment.” (2008 SBC Annual at p. 253)

Now admittedly, I’m no retirement plan expert, but this strikes me as pretty generous. I can’t help but wonder how this would look if it were compared to retirement plans for employees of other organizations.

Is YOUR retirement plan this generous?

It’s particularly striking when you consider the repeated claim of Southern Baptist officials that the SBC really exists “only a few days each year.” That’s another one of the excuses they make for why they can’t do anything to systematically address clergy sex abuse. It’s their “gee-whiz-we-don’t-even-exist” shell game.

Yet, this entity that purportedly exists for only a few days sure pays out some generous benefits to all those honchos working in that block-long building in Nashville.

Speaking of which… do any of you know how to find out the total compensation packages for those Southern Baptist honchos in Nashville?

A couple reporters have told me it’s impossible. They say the Southern Baptist Convention won’t disclose that information.

From what I hear, the Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t make that information available because it claims to be exempt from filing the IRS-990 form. That’s the federal form that other non-profit entities file, which requires them to disclose how much they’re paying their executives.

But apparently, the Southern Baptist Convention claims to have status as a “church” and so it claims to be exempt from publicly disclosing how much its executives are paid.

How’s that for having your cake and eating it too? They claim to have no responsibility for clergy sex abuse within the denomination because the denomination is separate from the churches. Yet, they claim to be a "church" and hide behind that label when it helps them avoid federal standards of financial accountability.

So… if the Southern Baptist Convention is a “church”, who are its ministers?

The only way this makes sense to me is if you figure that the ministers of the SBC are the ministers of the local churches. After all, they’re the minister who carry the “Southern Baptist” brand on their shoulders.

Yet, those ministers who give the SBC status as a “church” for purposes of avoiding federal non-profit disclosure laws are the same ministers for whom the SBC claims it can’t possibly exercise any oversight.

Am I missing something here? Is my information wrong? Is there some piece of this that I just don’t understand?

Help me out, if you can. As I said, I’m no expert on retirement plans, and I’m sure as heck no expert on federal requirements for non-profit disclosures.

So how does this make sense?

Why aren’t all the thousands of hard-working people who put money in Baptist offering plates entitled to know how much those SBC executives are taking out for their own salaries and benefits? Huh?

I know a lot of you are undoubtedly a whole lot smarter than me on this kind of stuff.

Are any of you tax lawyers? Accountants?

Explain this to me. Please.

While you’re at it, if you’ve got a minute, take a look at that 2008 SBC Annual. It’s 1360 pages long. Maybe you’ll spot some other gem in there.

And remember… all of this comes from an organization that claims it exists for “only a few days each year.”

But of course, that’s what SBC officials say when they’re trying to deflect responsibility for clergy child molesters. When they’re justifying their salaries, I imagine it’s another story. I haven’t been able to figure out how much they actually make, but I bet they’re getting paid for more than just “a few days.”

You can access the 2008 SBC Annual by clicking on the link at the top of the upper-right column at

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bully Bylaws

Leaders at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville pushed through some bylaws that institute a process for any member who has a “grievance” against the church, its pastor or staff. As reported on a watchdog blog, the process involves (1) Matthew 18 reconciliation, followed by (2) arbitration with the Florida Baptist Convention.

But that’s not all. After setting up this process, the FBC-Jax leaders put on their steel-toe boots and delivered this kicker of a clause:
"By joining this Church, all members agree that biblical conciliation efforts shall provide the sole remedy for any dispute arising against the Church. All members waive the right to file any legal action against the Church in a civil court or agency."

I know bylaws are boring, but no one should snooze on this one. This bylaws clause is designed to cripple any who might attempt to bring church wrongdoing into the light of day.

These are bully bylaws.

No matter how egregious the conduct of the church’s leaders may be, members who seek to challenge them will find themselves paralyzed. Their backs were broken when these bylaws were adopted, and they didn’t even realize it.

Consider these hypothetical scenarios:

  • The pastor’s brother-in-law needs work, and so the pastor gives him a job driving the church bus, even though the pastor knows the man has 2 drunk-driving convictions. Predictably, tragedy strikes. When the church refuses payment on the kids’ mounting medical bills, parents seek to hold the church accountable in court.

  • A church secretary grows weary of a minister’s lewd jokes. When the jokes turn to butt-grabs, she complains to the senior pastor, who suggests that she shouldn’t talk about it if she values her job. The secretary wants to file a sexual harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

  • A church member, who’s an accountant, begins to suspect financial mismanagement and fraud. No one can give a straight answer on where the money’s going and no one will allow access to the church’s financial records. The only way the member can see the records is if she gets a court order.

  • Parents learn that their child was sexually molested by a staff-minister. Then they learn that the minister had a prior molestation conviction in another state. They’re devastated, but when they talk with the senior pastor, he minimizes the “mishap” and lectures them on forgiveness. The parents decide to file a lawsuit.

In all of these cases, the complaining church members would face an immediate roadblock. The church would pull forth this bully bylaw and contend that the member had voluntarily waived their right to any legal action.

“But surely a court wouldn’t enforce such a clause,” you say?

Maybe and maybe not. It would depend on the judge.

But in all likelihood, long before it’s ever put before a judge, the bully bylaw will have served its purpose of deterring people from bringing wrongs to light.

Many will find that they simply cannot muster the money, the time, or the will to litigate it. They may leave the church, but they won’t invest the energy it would take to get past the hurdle of having a court declare the bully bylaw unenforceable.

By squelching lawsuits, the bully bylaw also squelches the primary way that people have of getting ugly information into the public eye. The bully bylaw preserves secrecy.

Even if a church member chose to challenge the bully bylaw, it would still serve to at least stall the truth-seeking process. While waiting for a judge to decide the bylaw’s legal enforceability, the ugly factual issues -- the ones about sexual harassment, child molestation, drunk-driving, or financial mismanagement -- would take a back seat and remain out of the spotlight.

Not only would it take some time, but it would also take some money to litigate the enforceability of the bully bylaw. The issue may raise First Amendment constitutional questions; so it could get expensive. But of course, that’s not a problem for the church leaders. They’ve got all those offering plate dollars to pay their lawyers.

But ordinary church members aren’t likely to have such a ready pool of cash. They’ll probably need to find a lawyer who’s willing to front the costs and work on a percentage basis. Maybe they’ll find such a lawyer, but it will certainly be more difficult because any lawyer will readily see that the bully bylaw makes the case riskier and more expensive.

Now consider what FBC-Jax offers church members as a replacement for their right to bring civil lawsuits. The bully bylaws say that the Florida Baptist Convention can arbitrate a church member’s grievance against the church.

So here’s my question: Why doesn’t local church autonomy preclude the Florida Baptist Convention from interfering?

Baptist leaders have repeatedly insisted that local church autonomy precludes state and national conventions from creating a professionally-staffed clergy abuse review board. But if local church autonomy doesn’t preclude a statewide Baptist convention from offering churches the resource of an arbitration panel for members’ complaints, why does local church autonomy preclude a statewide Baptist convention from offering churches the resource of a review board to assess clergy abuse reports?

Don’t scratch your head too hard. There’s nothing logical about it.

First Baptist of Jacksonville is a Southern Baptist flagship mega-church. It’s hosting a 4-day Pastors’ Conference that starts tomorrow, and the church’s senior pastor, Mac Brunson, will be a featured speaker.

Ironically, the advertised theme of the Jacksonville conference is “Healthy Pastors, Healthy Churches.”

I wonder whether Mac Brunson will be teaching other pastors how to build “healthy churches” through the use of bully bylaws.


Information about the FBC-Jax bylaws was derived from
FBC-Jax Watchdog.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Teeth-grinding over GuideStone

Whenever I see the word “GuideStone,” I grind my teeth.

GuideStone is the Southern Baptist Convention entity that provides retirement and health-care services for ministers. It also provides financial assistance for ministers in need.

The current news about it isn’t much: GuideStone is having to tighten its belt in this sour economy. But I’m still grinding my teeth.

I mean… think about it.

When it comes to providing retirement plans for Southern Baptist ministers, no one tosses out “local church autonomy” as an excuse for inaction.

No one invokes “our belief in the autonomy of each local church” as a reason for why Southern Baptists can’t work cooperatively to allow ministers more secure retirements.

Nope. Nine decades ago, Southern Baptist leaders looked around and saw the need to forge a cooperative way of assisting churches in providing for ministers’ retirements. They realized that small local churches weren’t equipped to do it on their own, and since no one wanted ministers to be destitute in retirement, they created an entity to deal with it.

The Southern Baptist Convention looks out for its ministers.

Now mind you… I’ve got no problem with that. I think ministers should be able to have retirements of dignity.

But here’s what I don’t get.

If local church autonomy doesn’t preclude the denomination from creating an entity to assure retirement security for ministers, why does local church autonomy preclude the denomination from creating an entity -- i.e., an independent review board -- to assure that those who report clergy sex abuse are compassionately received and that local churches are warned about credibly accused clergy?

Why don’t Southern Baptist leaders care just as much about protecting kids and congregants against clergy sex predators as they do about protecting the security of ministers in retirement?

I don’t have any answers to these questions, and frankly, I don’t think Southern Baptist leaders have any good answers either.

Grrrrrr. That’s the sound of my teeth grinding.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hyde Park loses abuse case

Despite numerous reports about a teacher’s physical abuse of toddlers, Hyde Park Baptist Church kept the teacher in a classroom of toddlers. The result of their blind-eyed approach? A 1-year old named “P.C.” suffered a head injury when the teacher knocked him to a tile floor.

Hyde Park is a very prominent Southern Baptist mega-church in Austin, Texas.

As reported yesterday in the Austin American-Statesman:
“Hyde Park administrators had received numerous complaints from parents and teachers regarding Lowry’s inappropriate and abusive behavior towards toddlers. Despite these reports, which spanned a period of 10 years, Hyde Park chose to retain Lowry as a lead teacher in a classroom with children under the age of 2.”

The court of appeals’ opinion provides details, and those details are appalling. (Cause No. 03-07-00437-CV in the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals)

  • A teacher and teaching assistant reported to a Hyde Park administrator that they had personally seen lead teacher Sue Lowry knock this child and other children ”to the ground.”

  • That administrator shared the information with 2 additional Hyde Park administrators.
  • “Hyde Park administrators did not inform…parents, the police, or Child Protective Services…. Lowry remained in her position as the lead teacher in [the toddlers’] classroom.”

  • Another teaching assistant made a report about Lowry to Child Protective Services.

  • When P.C.’s mother first learned of the allegations that Lowry had abused their son, she talked to a Hyde Park administrator in person, by phone, and in a meeting that she herself insisted on. The Hyde Park administrator “refused to give her an explanation.” The mother was alarmed by the “non-responsiveness.”

  • At trial, evidence showed that “Lowry had a long history of mistreatment or inappropriate behavior towards the toddlers in her care and that many of these incidents had been reported to Hyde Park administrators by parents or other teachers.”

  • Evidence showed that “Hyde Park administrators attempted to conceal Lowry’s treatment of P.C. – and his resulting injury – from his parents, even after P.C. had become the subject of a CPS investigation.”

  • Prior to the incident with P.C., another Hyde Park employee had seen Lowry “knock over other children, use her legs to pin children against walls, and jerk on a ‘walking rope’ used for children first learning to walk, causing the children to fall down.”

  • Still another Hyde Park employee testified that “she had witnessed multiple incidents of Lowry mistreating the children in her class.” These incidents included Lowry “intentionally pushing a chair out from under a child, throwing a child onto a naptime mat from a height of two or three feet with such force that… ‘I saw her body bounce’, depriving children of food, and forcing a child to drink milk by pinning him against her body and pressing the cup to his face, leaving the child gasping for air.”

  • A teaching assistant testified, “Every two or three days for two weeks, and sometimes on back-to-back days, I would make a complaint about [Lowry’s] treatment of children to the administration.” A Hyde Park administrator told the teaching assistant that she was “the only witness” and so her statements “did not do any good.”

  • Five different parents had filed complaints against Lowry with Hyde Park administrators.

  • A parent witnessed Lowry “fling her child across the room.” A Hyde Park employee witnessed the same event, and they both reported it to a Hyde Park administrator.

  • Four different teachers had given Hyde Park administrators written documentation of “incidents in which they witnessed Lowry treating children in a rough manner.”

  • A prior Hyde Park administrator testified to the numerous complaints she received during her tenure. She met with Lowry in July 1995 and presented her a letter, describing the complaints about her conduct with children. Nevertheless, Lowry was allowed to continue working with children. “Parents, fellow teachers, and administrators continued to report” Lowry’s conduct… “prompting additional meetings.”

The injury to P.C. occurred in 2005.

It took 10 years for Hyde Park officials to remove this teacher from working with toddlers despite numerous reports of abuse.

It took a child's head injury and a CPS investigation for Hyde Park officials to remove this abusive teacher from working with toddlers.

It took a lawsuit for Hyde Park's long-standing negligence to be brought into the light of day.

If this is how Hyde Park church officials handle reports about a teacher’s physical abuse of toddlers, how do you think they would handle a report about a minister’s sexual abuse of a teen?

When you see such an entrenched lack of accountability, lack of responsibility, lack of care for kids, and lack of transparency, I think you have to assume that this church would probably handle a clergy sex abuse report in much the same way.

Perhaps they already have.


Photo by Taylor Holland, Austin Chronicle.