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Sexual Abuse and Protestant Churches

James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. has represented victims injured by the wrongful misconduct of others for more than 40 years. Although many of our cases involve physical injuries, we know that emotional scars can be just as devastating, and that sexual abuse by trusted adults can adversely affect children for the rest of their lives.  

Although sexual abuse by Catholic priests has commanded much of the media’s attention, sexual abuse in Protestant churches has also been common, as the churches themselves are starting to acknowledge. 

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant denomination in America,  with 47,272 churches and about 15.2 million members, has recently been rocked by revelations of widespread sexual abuse among its congregations. According to an investigative report by the Houston Chronicle and the San-Antonio Express News, since 1998, roughly 380 clergy, lay leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct involving over 700 victims. According to this report, the SBC moved sex offenders to other communities and resisted attempts to address a culture of abuse within its churches. 

SBC President J.D. Greear established a Sexual Abuse Advisory Group to study sexual abuse within the SBC and recommend measures to address this problem. Its report, Caring Well, recognizes that sexual abuse has been widespread among Southern Baptist churches, and failures to respond to sexual abuse have occurred in many ways, including:

  • Failing to adequately train our staff and volunteers—on the national, state, and congregational levels—to be aware of and respond appropriately to abuse 
  • Using church autonomy improperly to avoid taking appropriate action   
  • Failing to care well for survivors of abuse
  • Failing to take disclosure seriously and to believe the survivor 
  • Failing to report abuse to civil authorities
  • Recommending suspected perpetrators to new employment 
  • Promoting political, institutional, and congregational leaders whose language and behavior glorifies mistreatment of women and children    

During its annual meeting in June 2019, in response to a growing awareness of sexual abuse within its churches, the SBC approved a resolution condemning sexual abuse and establishing a special committee to investigate sexual abuse, which should make it easier to expel churches from the convention. These efforts to combat abuse, although welcome, may be seen as too little, too late, by those who have already suffered abuse at the hands of clergy and volunteers. According to its critics, the SBC has refused for years to adopt suggested reforms, such as creating a database of abusers.    

In recent years, many states have enacted laws which extend the time for filing sexual abuse lawsuits. In some cases, these statutes provide limited windows of one or two years to bring claims that would otherwise be time-barred. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by sexual abuse as a scout, you should promptly contact legal counsel to see whether you might be entitled to compensation.  

If you or a loved one has suffered church-related sexual abuse, please call us at 304-347-505 (local) or 877-341-2595 (toll-free) for a free initial consultation. You may also contact us online. We allow a victim to achieve financial compensation without publicity or confronting lawyers and the diocese

Toll Free: +1 (877) 341-2595

Email: [email protected]

Sources

Elizabeth Dias, The New York Times, Southern Baptist Convention Vows to Address Sex Abuse in Its Churches, June 11, 2019 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/11/us/southern-baptist-sex-abuse.html 

Phillip Bethancourt, ERLC, June 8, 2019, Top 10 takeaways from the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group Report, https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/top-10-takeaways-from-the-sexual-abuse-advisory-… 

Associated Press, June 9, 2018, Some facts about the Southern Baptist Convention, https://www.foxnews.com/…/some-facts-about-the-southern-baptist-conventi… 

Caring Well: A Report From the SBC Sexual Abuse Advisory Group (released 2019)