Saturday, August 8, 2009

450 churches had 80 serious felony offenses

News release from the Southern Baptist Convention:
450 churches did background checks on prospective employees and volunteers through the discounted program that the SBC began offering about a year ago, and 80 of those checks revealed "serious felony offenses."

This is information that comes straight from the Southern Baptist Convention itself. My sense of it is that the SBC is pointing out how these 450 churches cared about children and wanted to protect them, and is urging other churches to do likewise.

Okay. That's fine so far as it goes, but it's not much to brag about. Background checks are important but they're really nothing more than the bare-bones of good business practice. Wouldn't you think that churches might manage to do a bit more than the bare-bones?

And consider this: 450 amounts to only 1 percent of the nearly 45,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. Do the math. "Projected onto the other 99 percent of Southern Baptist churches," 80 "serious felony offenses" in 450 churches adds up to a likely 8,000 "serious felony offenses" in the rest of the churches.

And what kind of numbers might show up if Baptists did what other major faith groups do and kept track of "credible allegations"? What kind of numbers might show up if there were a denominational database to search in addition to the database of those who have been criminally convicted?

Those numbers would likely be huge. Experts consistently recognize that most active child molesters have no criminal record. Probably at least 90 percent don't. This means that, when churches conduct criminal background checks, if that's all they do, they could easily be missing 90 percent of the child molesters.

In fact, when the study done by the the John Jay College of Criminal Justice was released in 2004, it found that 4,392 Catholic priests were found to have "credible allegations" of having abused kids. But only 2 percent of those had ever received any prison sentence, and so only 2 percent would show up on a sex offender registry.

But Baptists don't even bother to assess or keep track of "credible allegations." For most of those 4,392 priests, if they had been Baptist clergy instead of Catholic clergy, they could easily still be standing in a Baptist pulpit.

In the Southern Baptist press release, pastor Wayne Rogers says, "Children are our precious commodity. They've been entrusted to us, and we have to protect them at any cost."

Baptist leaders often say things like this -- "children are precious" -- but if you look at their deeds, there is little reason to think that Baptist leaders really believe this. If they really believed it, they would provide a system by which people might safely report abuse within the denomination. If they really believed it, they would keep track of credible abuse reports so that people might know how many allegations have been made against various ministers. If they really believed it, they would tell people in the pews about credibly-accused clergy.

If Baptist leaders don't even bother to do anything about reported child-molesting-ministers they're specifically told about, why should anyone imagine that they're going to be able to effectively prevent child-molesting-ministers they don't yet know about?

And let's not forget that it was only after enormous media pressure that the Southern Baptist Convention started its program of helping churches do background checks -- after dozens upon dozens upon dozens of news articles about Baptist clergy sex abuse. Many of those news articles were instituted by the very people that former Southern Baptist president Frank Page called "nothing more than opportunistic persons" and that former Southern Baptist president Paige Patterson called "evil-doers."

Even this tiny, tiny step of offering discounted background checks is a step that was belated and begrudging.

But hey . . . let's look on the positive side. During the past year, 450 Southern Baptist churches did background checks. As a result, there are now 80 less people with "serious felony offenses" who are working in Southern Baptist churches.

That may be small progress, but it's at least progress.

Oops. My mistake. I was trying to think on the positive side, and as a result, I wound up making an assumption that may or may not be true. I was just assuming that those churches didn't hire the 80 people with "serious felony offenses."

But maybe some of those churches hired the people anyway. Maybe some of those churches had leaders who recited the "We believe in forgiveness" line and put the people to work anyway.

Read more about this in the Associated Baptist Press: “LifeWay says 1 in 8 church background checks finds record.” Be sure to notice the comment from LifeWay, stating "it's possible that the 450 churches" may have been "located in areas with a higher than normal prevalence of criminal activity and/or criminal background." Uhhhh... I think the LifeWay guy is missing the point and is also trying to explain away the moon. Besides, reporter Bob Allen expressly stated in the article that 450 churches was "not a statistically representative sample."

See also The Birmingham News, 8/16/09: “Church background checks find many with felonies.”


Unknown said...

I’m not shocked, I am an employee of Integrascan, a Background Check site that offers free Criminal Background Checks to churches, we were in on this study with many of the Baptist Churches and found a lot of Child Molestations, The state checks they were running before did not produce Criminal Records from other states. Integrascan Provided National Criminal Background Checks for free and found many Volunteers had Criminal Records.

If your church is in the need of background checks, look at the Integrascan Kid Safe program for free National Background Checks.

Terry Sweet

john said...

Thanks Robert,

Here is a small part of the solution. Church members should require this of ALL employees and volunteers. You would think the power brokers or the SBC would provide this info if the only gave a rat's -------.
Question, can individual members request checks on staff members without the staff members permission?

Anonymous said...

john, do not get involved with this guy terry,,,do some reading on integrascan before you do,,,beyond belief,