Southern Religion

6. Southern Baptists decide against pedophilia database

Number 6 of Time Magazine’s Top 10 Underreported News Stories:

Facing calls to curb child sex abuse within its churches, in June the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest U.S. religious body after the Catholic Church — urged local hiring committees to conduct federal background checks but rejected a proposal to create a central database of staff and clergy who have been either convicted of or indicted on charges of molesting minors.

At Stop Baptist Predators, abuse survivor Christa Brown wrote in response:

Southern Baptists claim 16.2 million members, and they have 101,000 clergy in this country. Without an effective oversight system, these numbers mean that a lot of kids and families are being left at risk. Without even any record-keeping on credibly accused clergy, there’s nothing to prevent Baptist clergy-predators from moving church to church.

In a Dec. 18 letter, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and other Clergy called upon Southern Baptist Convention president Johnny Hunt to lead the denomination in implementing straightforward protections against clerical Baptist sexual predators. They asked him to lead the SBC 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.
  3. An efficient means of assuring that the assessment information reaches people in the pews — i.e., a database.

Failure to implement an effective system is illogical and, because it permits predation that would otherwise have been stopped, cruel.

Justifications for that policy of cruelty border on the bizarre. While SBC president, Frank Page argued that a registry of sexually abusive Baptist clergy was ill-advised because:

… if we were to have a national registry, what we know happens with true abusers, they just switch to another denomination that doesn’t access a denominational database.

Thus a denominational database is somehow inappropriate because it would work as designed by reducing the number of abusers among Southern Baptist clergy.

In the same interview Page addressed what Wade Burleson believes is the underlying reason for Southern Baptist Convention resistance to creating and maintaining a central database of abusive clergy — cost:

Some of our state conventions are doing a much better job of providing either free or low-cost background checks for not only paid staff but all volunteer staff. Our church requires a nationwide sexual and criminal check on all volunteers if you work with anyone 18 years or younger. That costs $10,000 to $15,000 per year, but it’s well spent. So we want to encourage and empower and equip local churches to protect precious children. And if there’s something our nationwide denomination can do, we’ll do it.

No, precious children, they will not.

No, from the Southern Baptist Convention, precious children, you can expect double-talk about the autonomy of local churches — double-talk which is just another variant of the kind of double-talk which has afflicted abuse victims for generations. You cannot expect the forceful, effective attention the SBC gives to issues about which it is serious.

Suffering little children are a lower priority for the SBC than keeping women pastors out of the pulpit, keeping homosexuals out of the pews and barring somehow insufficiently fundamentalist churches from affiliation.

December 22, 2008 Posted by | Religion | 6 Comments