Southern Religion

How did Ezell suffer the little children in 2004 case?

Refuse to testify and fail to warn your church’s members about a sexual predator in their midst.

That was newly elected Southern Baptist North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell’s reaction when in 2004 as pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, he learned that a volunteer at his church who had also taught at a school operated by his church [see addendum] was accused of sex crimes. And Ezell was himself subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.

Christa Brown at Stop Baptist Predators writes:

When prosecutors subpoenaed pastor Ezell to testify before the grand jury, Ezell invoked the clergy-penitent privilege. In other words, Ezell claimed that he couldn’t be required to testify under oath (i.e., under penalty of perjury) because he claimed that, as pastor, he was entitled to keep secret whatever Bill Maggard had told him.

Furthermore, as reported in the Courier-Journal, “Ezell said he did not expect the church would announce Maggard’s arrest to the congregation.”

In many states, Ezell would not have had recourse to clergy-penitent privilege and could have had difficulties himself if found to have failed to report “known or suspected instances of child abuse or neglect.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Information Gateway explains:

In approximately 18 States and Puerto Rico, any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report.3 This inclusive language appears to include clergy but may be interpreted otherwise.

As a doctrine of some faiths, clergy must maintain the confidentiality of pastoral communications. Mandatory reporting statutes in some States specify the circumstances under which a communication is “privileged” or allowed to remain confidential. Privileged communications may be exempt from the requirement to report suspected abuse or neglect. The privilege of maintaining this confidentiality under State law must be provided by statute. Most States do provide the privilege, typically in rules of evidence or civil procedure.4 If the issue of privilege is not addressed in the reporting laws, it does not mean that privilege is not granted; it may be granted in other parts of State statutes.

This privilege, however, is not absolute. While clergy-penitent privilege is frequently recognized within the reporting laws, it is typically interpreted narrowly in the context of child abuse or neglect. The circumstances under which it is allowed vary from State to State, and in some States it is denied altogether. For example, among the States that list clergy as mandated reporters, New Hampshire and West Virginia deny the clergy-penitent privilege in cases of child abuse or neglect. Four of the States that enumerate “any person” as a mandated reporter (North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas) also deny clergy-penitent privilege in child abuse cases.

States which require reporting without regard to clergy-penitent privilege simply place the welfare of vulnerable children first.

Ezell could have put the children first and, judging from available accounts, simply did not do that.


On March 19, 2004, the Associated Press reported:

Maggard, 56, was indicted in December on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse. He is accused of molesting seven boys between 1973 and 1975, when he was a fifth-grade teacher at Schaffner Elementary School.

The new indictment says Maggard molested the boys either at school or at his home.

Maggard was initially indicted Dec. 17. He pleaded not guilty at his Dec. 22 arraignment and later posted a $5,000 bond.

Maggard taught 13 years in Jefferson County Public Schools and later worked at a school operated by Highview Baptist Church, where he also volunteered in Sunday school and choir programs until recently.

The 6,000-member church is one of the state’s largest Southern Baptist congregations.

On August 3, 2004, reported:

A former teacher pleaded guilty to sexually abusing seven boys in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The deal calls for Bill Maggard Jr., 57, to spend up to 10 years in prison, WLKY NewsChannel 32 reported Tuesday.

. . .

Maggard taught for 13 years in Jefferson County Public Schools, and later worked at a school operated by Highview Baptist Church.

The church has said it has no claims of abuse

At sentencing time, Maggard made the kind of plea for clemency that is eerily predictable for church-going predators. On October 01, 2004, Jason Riley of the Louisville Courier-Journal wrote:

“I’m sorry for my actions many years ago,” he said during his sentencing hearing in Jefferson Circuit Court, adding that he sought treatment in the early 1980s and would be willing to do so again. “I faced my sin, sought forgiveness, sought help and God kept His promise.”

What of his victims? The burden of warning them appears to have fallen to the press and an alert member of Ezell’s congregation. As Christa explains:

And thank God for a member of Ezell’s congregation who saw what was happening in her church and worried about the safety of the kids. As reported in the Courier-Journal, a member of Highview knew about prior allegations of abuse by Maggard, and she was concerned about his being in contact with children in the church. So, she contacted the victims and encouraged them to go to police.

Did Maggard seek out his victims and provide treatment to them?

Were those seeking clemency for Maggard at least similarly concerned about finding and helping all of his victims? You know: The suffering children.

September 19, 2010 - Posted by | children, Crime, SBC | , , ,

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