Friday, May 18, 2012

Florida Baptist Convention found liable for pastor who molested boy

Douglas Myers
(Florida Dept. of Corrections)
As reported by the Orlando Sentinel

Yesterday, a Florida jury “found the Florida Baptist Convention liable for a former pastor who sexually abused a 13-year-old boy.”

“Jurors decided that the convention didn’t do enough to investigate the background of Douglas W. Myers, who started two churches… after receiving funds and training from the convention.”

“The convention had argued that it is more of a support organization for Baptist churches and that it didn’t have any control or responsibility for him.” [But the jury didn’t buy that phony-baloney argument. Hallelujah.]

“The verdict … clearly shows the Florida Baptist Convention failed to follow a basic standard of care,” said Ronald Weil, attorney for the victim.

“The victim and his mother had filed suit against the convention, arguing that it failed to uncover past allegations of sexual abuse at churches in Maryland and Alabama …. “

“This is the first such liability case against the convention, which comprises nearly 3,000 congregations and 1 million members in Florida.” [Nationwide, the Southern Baptist Convention claims about 100,000 congregations and 16 million members. Let’s hope that, state by state, this Florida precedent advances forward so as to prod Southern Baptists into implementing denominational accountability and tracking systems for their clergy.)

“Though Myers had never faced prior criminal charges for sex abuse, members of his Maryland and Alabama churches knew about questionable behavior, including inappropriate contact with young boys....”

The Florida Baptist Convention’s attorney argued that the convention “had no right to control anything” Myers did. But Myers “was included in church directories and Baptist publications as being affiliated,” said Weil. “He wasn’t a rogue. He wasn’t on his own. He was part of an affiliated church.”

Jurors decided that at least part of the blame also rested with the Lake County Baptist Association. However, “the trial focused on the responsibility of the statewide organization.”

Read here for more info on the prior history of this case.