Friday, February 11, 2011

"Louis" tells why Baptists need review boards

Mike Hogan
Mike Hogan, a mayoral candidate in Jacksonville, Florida, testified as a character witness for a Southern Baptist pastor who was convicted in 2007 of possessing child pornography. To this day, Hogan still doesn’t believe the man was guilty; he said so just last Tuesday in the Florida Times-Union.

The convicted man, Richard Steven Sweat, was a youth pastor at Lake Shore Baptist Church in Jacksonville, and Mike Hogan was active at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville. Both churches are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Hogan didn’t attend the 5-day trial and didn’t hear any of the evidence. Nevertheless, after Sweat was convicted, Hogan testified at the sentencing hearing and swore to the judge that he didn’t have “any reservation whatsoever” about Sweat’s innocence.

So given that Hogan hadn’t heard any of the evidence, why was he so certain of Sweat’s innocence? According to Hogan’s testimony, it was because he had known Sweat for 15 years, because Hogan’s son said Sweat was a person “of great character,” and because Sweat “was unashamed of his love for and his commitment to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Did I mention that Hogan didn’t attend even a single day of the 5-day trial? Twelve jurors actually did sit and hear all the evidence and they concluded that Sweat was guilty. The FBI reached the same conclusion based on a year-long investigation. But apparently Hogan didn’t think the evidence mattered. Hogan was more than willing to proclaim Sweat’s innocence based on his own gut belief that he “knew” the man.

So far, there’s not much of anything in this story that’s unusual, is there? We’ve seen dozens of these kinds of cases in which people insist that they just “know” a minister is innocent.

But here’s what grabbed my attention. When “Watchdog” blogged about this case, a frequent Baptist blog commenter named “Louis” posted this remark:

“This is a very common human trait. If we love something (an idea) or someone so much, we will ignore things or minimize things that show that idea or person in a bad light.

"Mr. Hogan's testimony is so illogical, there is no explaining it except to say that when the evidence contradicts a human's love for someone, that person will ignore the evidence or try to explain it away. . . . History is full of people who do this.”

“Louis” is exactly right: “This is a very common human trait.” But here’s why it’s so puzzling to see such words coming from “Louis.”

“Louis” is the same guy who has repeatedly denounced the notion of providing Southern Baptist churches with the denominational resource of a trained review board to more objectively assess clergy abuse reports that cannot be criminally prosecuted (which is most of them). He is an attorney; he is reportedly on an SBC board; and his blog comments often give the appearance that he is a Southern Baptist official. I’m only about 90 percent certain of who “Louis” actually is, and so I won’t state his presumed identity, but suffice it to say that I think “Louis” is someone who has likely done as much or more than almost any other individual to dissuade Southern Baptist officials from implementing denominational review boards to assess complaints about Baptist clergy sex abuse and to provide Baptist congregations with more reliable information about credibly-accused clergy.

So what in the world is “Louis” thinking? He knows and understands full well about this “common human trait” – i.e., that, as human beings, we tend to overlook, deny and minimize ugly information about awful conduct when the conduct involves someone we love and trust. Yet, “Louis" still proclaims that congregants in local Southern Baptist churches can responsibly assess clergy abuse reports, even when those reports involve their own loved and trusted ministers. Congregants can’t, and the reason they can’t is precisely because of the very “common human trait” that “Louis” himself acknowledges.

This is why other professional groups and other religious groups have accountability systems that seek to procedurally compensate for the reality of this “common human trait.” They have accountability systems that allow for ethical review processes to be conducted by those outside the accused’s immediate circle of influence and trust.

But Southern Baptists don’t bother. Baptist honchos like “Louis” know about this “common human trait” but they still sit back and do nothing to effectively deal with it. This institutional failure is part of what makes Baptistland such a perfect paradise for predators.

Rather than using the words of Jesus as a reason for protecting “the least of these,” Southern Baptists have used their “religion” of autonomy as an excuse to avoid accountability for the powerful. They have done so with the help and advice of men like “Louis.”

Related post:Baptists must face fears and prioritize risks, 8/24/10


Anonymous said...

Louis is a pragmatist.

Lynn said...

I found another thing the SBC wants to get rid of besides churches with women pastors and churches who encourage gays. It's pastors who are secretly atheists, but stay in the pulpit for various reasons.

I learned this from reading Al Mohler's old blog posts. He says it's wrong for these pastors to stay, and if they will not leave on their own, they should be ejected.

So that's three things the SBC feels strongly about and wants to or is willing to take action on.

If only they felt as incensed about child molesters.

Anonymous said...

Confirmation bias is what it is called I think:

Confirmation bias refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Need to know how we can check on a Case here in Austin Texas. Deacon was arrested sending photos of his body parts and his drivers license to who he thought was 13 yr girl, but police caught him. That was feb 10, 2010. His case has been delayed monthly. Was set for today 2.14 now delayed again to 3/4. How do we find out why this guy is walking around free for a year???
Robert Douglas Riffle is the name. Date of arrest 2/10.10 out on 50,000 bond. Do you have researcher?
Thanks, worried Grandma

Anonymous said...

The Perp 's name was published in your site last February and on all radio and new reports.
Can you check on the perp and the status? Robert Douglas Riffle, deacon at FBC, Austin, date of arrest 2/10/10. out all year on 50,000 bail.
Thanks worried Grandma

Christa Brown said...

If you know that the Riffle case was originally set for 2/14 and delayed until 3/4, then you know a great deal more than me. If you see any additional articles about the case in the local paper, please send me a news link.

Here's the case Anon is talking about:

Anonymous said...

Louis plays both sides of the fence and has been caught on FBC Jax back in March of 2010 in a huge lie. He made a huge point of trying to sound neutral by telling bloggers that he did not anticipate ever working for any SBC entity.

Then we find out he was appointed to the SBTS Foundation Board and KNEW IT WHEN HE WROTE THAT on the blog. Not only that but he had been on an SBC Board before.

Louis is a lawyer in Nashville and an elder at his church. He is a big fan of Mohler's.

I will be happy to give his full name here if you allow it. Seems someone who knows him and kept reading his "pragmatic" blog posts decided to out him to a few bloggers.

Gotta watch him, he tries to sound pragmatic but he is actually planting poisonous seeds with his lawyerly twisting. He pretends like he is agreeing while trying to make people look ignorant for their views.

Louis is his middle name.

Christa Brown said...

"... he tries to sound pragmatic but he is actually planting poisonous seeds...."

Yes, I've seen this phenomenon in action on quite a few occasions.

Are you able to provide any link to any place where "Louis" himself acknowledges his LMA identity?