Friday, June 14, 2013

While Southern Baptists preached, prosecutor filed charges

Travis Ray Smith
While Southern Baptists were busy preaching and pontificating at their annual convention in Houston this week, a Missouri story provided a good example of the consequences that come from this denomination’s do-nothingness on clergy sex abuse.

A Missouri prosecutor filed new felony charges of statutory rape and statutory sodomy against Southern Baptist pastor Travis Smith.  The charges are based on events involving a teen girl, aged 14 to 15 at the time.

Ironically, the timing of the new charges coincides with the Southern Baptist Convention’s passage of its all-talk-no-action resolution on the sexual abuse of children.

Smith, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Stover, Missouri, now faces a total of six felony charges, ranging from forcible rape to sexual abuse.

A CBS news affiliate reported from an anonymous source that, four years ago, the local Baptist association had barred Smith from its annual children’s summer camp. And Smith was previously charged with similar crimes, but was acquitted on those charges in 2011. And even while facing these additional six charges, the church has still retained Smith as pastor while the charges are pending.

So Smith has quite the history. It appears that Southern Baptist leaders have been a great deal more concerned with not upsetting the apple cart of Smith’s pastorate than they have with protecting children from sexual abuse.

I know what some of you will say about Smith’s acquittal in 2011. “Innocent until proven guilty.” But that’s a standard under the criminal law for deciding whether a person should be thrown in prison. It’s not a standard for deciding whether a person should be able to continue in a position of high trust as a pastor. And an “acquittal” in the criminal courts doesn’t mean that a man is “innocent.” Rather, it means that he wasn’t proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt under all the restrictions that are imposed in the criminal justice system.

Most other major faith groups apply standards of proof that are far different from those of the criminal justice system for assessing child sex allegations against a minister.  But not Southern Baptists.

If a Southern Baptist pastor isn’t literally sitting in prison, he can probably find a pulpit to stand in . . . just as Travis Smith has done in his Missouri pulpit despite multiple child sex allegations.

Do you think that nice-sounding Southern Baptist resolution is going to help any of those Missouri kids?
Related posts:
Multi-accused pastor remains in pulpit, 11/18/2012
Multi-accused pastor preaches on forgiveness, 12/8/2012