"...When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36

"Do not rob the poor, because he is poor... for the Lord will take up their case and plunder those who plunder them." Proverbs 22:22-23

Friday, December 9, 2011

Senate Hearing on Child Abuse Set for December 13th - Senate Needs to Hear from Some Baptist Witnesses

"Without institutional consequences, we will continue to see the pattern of Southern Baptist leaders – leaders such as Philip Gunn, Jack Graham, Greg Belser, Steve Gaines and many more – who weigh each scenario for themselves and conclude (for whatever rationalized mess of a reason) that their particular scenario is somehow exceptional and that reporting isn’t necessary." Christa Brown, 12/8/11
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Christa Brown is exactly right. And not only are institutional consequences necessary, but also stiffer legal penalties as well.

While it will probably be a cold day in Hades before baptists enact institutional consequences for their lay folk and ministers who don't report abuse, we can rejoice that our government is moving forward on the legal side. In the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State child sex abuse scandal, the U.S. Senate is doing the right thing: they are going to hold a December 13th hearing on child abuse reporting, and legislation has already been proposed to require states to enact tougher laws to punish any adults that fail to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement.

If the focus of the hearing is to help legislators understand the risk to children from sex abuse because of failure to report the abuse to law enforcement agencies, the Senate must focus on a bigger risk to children than college administrators and coaches: that of the risk from failure to report allegations of abuse by ministers as in the Bob Gray scandal at Trinity Baptist here in Jacksonville (Bob Gray's booking photo is above, next to Jerry Sandusky's). Tougher penalties must be imposed on clergy and lay leaders in churches who become aware of abuse allegations yet fail to report them to the police. This nonsense of "priest penitent" privilege as an excuse to not report pedophile ministers must go out the window, as evidenced by the latest scandal where even lay "elders" of a church are using the priest penitent excuse to not speak to law enforcement in an abuse case.

The witness list of the hearing has not been announced. I would recommend the Senate consider some of these as witnesses at their hearing to fully understand that the Penn State scandal is nothing new, these cover-ups have been going on for years in baptist churches.

Witnesses I would suggest at the hearing:

- Christa Brown: Christa would be a powerful witness. As a victim herself, she has lived through the pain of trying to hold her perpetrator accountable while watching him continue to minister and receive the support of his peers. She can speak to this problem of churches failing to report abuse, why so many churches fail to report, and why tougher penalties should be enacted against clergy and lay leaders who cover for an accused minister.

- Dr. Jack Graham: the most recent scandal amongst Southern Baptists involves John Langworthy, who ministered at the megachurch Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. The Senate ought to subpoena the Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham to ask him why the local authorities were not contacted about John Langworthy when allegations arose of sexual abuse. The Senators should ask Dr. Graham why his church chose to conduct their own investigation, fire Langworthy, and chose not make a report to the local authorities, allowing Langworthy to move on to another position without warning the next church.

- Dr. Tom Messer of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida: Messer would be an excellent witness. The similarities between the Bob Gray scandal at Trinity Baptist Church and the Penn State scandal are really unbelievable. Messer should be asked why Trinity Baptist church did not call the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office when allegations of sexual misconduct arose against pastor Dr. Bob Gray. He can be asked about why allegations were not disclosed to parishioners of the church (and in fact why Messer and church leaders stood by while Gray lied to his congregation about them), and why Gray was allowed to go on mission to Germany without the mission sending agency being alerted to the allegations. It is a story like that of Bob Gray, and the tendency of churches to not report their "men of God" ministers who are accused of abuse and to even accuse the victims of wrong-doing, that will help Senators realize that stiff penalties for failure to immediately report allegations are required, and no statute of limitations should apply in these cases.

I hope the Senate does act. I hope states are required to enact tough laws with mandatory jail time for all persons who become aware of child sexual abuse allegations and don't report them to the police.

And we can thank God we don't live in a theocracy run by Baptists or Catholics or any religious men. We can thank God we have a government who can do something to increase protection for children from pedophiles and their friends who think they are doing the will of God by not reporting the abuse.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whereas I think all those men should face legal authorities about their failure to report sex abuse, you are sadly deluded and misinformed if you think the SBC has the authority to penalize these men in any way. That simply is not under the auspices of the SBC and you should know that. The convention is not a policing agent in regard to criminal offenses.

If you think Penn State is a stronghold, just trying going after Jack Graham. Prestonwood would end up having you put in jail instead of Jack Graham.

Jeff said...

I think that you are unaware of the fact that there is no "institution" to execute "consequences." While I am not in the SBC, I would venture to say that they would say, the "convention" is not an "institutional body" with any form of "institutional authority."

Most likely they (SBC) will say, and truthfully so, that the "Convention" is made up of churches in "voluntary participation one with another" such as the group that I am in.

In short, nothing actually exists above and beyond a local church.

Your churches may "own Lifeway" together, and elect "board(committee) members for missions" but as far as ability or authority to deal with pastors, preachers, and churches, nothing exists.

I don't know that for sure not being part of the SBC, but if it's anything like the other Baptist groups that will be the case.

There simply is no "institution" practically, or structurally, higher than the local church to handle preachers, pastors, teachers, etc.

That being said, the onus to deal with these issues rests with local churches doing what is right.

I think, and I may be wrong, but what you are trying to deal with is what to do when the local church doesn't do what is right.

Institutionally speaking, there is nothing that can be done. I am not arguing a "should" or a "shouldn't" but saying that such an "agency" doesn't exist, and if one did, it too could only exist as "voluntary participation."

Practically speaking, the consequences of local churches not doing what is right will ultimately wind up laying in the laps of the law.

Anonymous said...

"The convention is not a policing agent in regard to criminal offenses. "

That's a lame way of getting out of investigating their own members!

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Jeff - your argument has been dealt multiple times before by Christa Brown so I won't address it except to say: Your view is why the government needs to get involved and make very strict penalties that will include lay and clergy church leaders who don't report sex abuse allegations at their churches.

Jeff said...

Tom,

I wasn't stating a "view" as much as just saying that currently nothing exists that pastors, preachers, and teachers are accountable to (in an official sense) except for the local church, and law enforcement. That's not a "view" that's the reality of the moment.

Anonymous said...

There are penalties under the law for not reporting sexual abuse. The local authorities just need to prosecute the offending pastors. Its certainly not the job nor the responsibility of the SBC. They simply don't possess that authority.

Anonymous said...

None of these men have been convicted of anything. Are you the judge and jury?

Anonymous said...

If they don't report child abuse they should be arrested. Then we let the jury decide their guilt or innocence. The law is very plain.

Anonymous said...

"None of these men have been convicted of anything. Are you the judge and jury?"

Regretfully, the constitutional concept of "Innocent until proven guilty" only applies to citizens with tons of money to hire the best legal council. ARCE can confirm this.

When it comes to alleged sexual abuse "YOU ARE ALWAYS GUILTY UNTIL YOU CAN PROVE YOUR INNOCENCE!"

That is the REALITY! And sometimes you can be convicted of sexual abuse, spend time in prison and then new facts emerge and you were wrongfully convited and release to try and rebuild your broken life.

Anonymous said...

There have been numerous pastors and teachers who have lost their jobs and reputations (and usually their marriages) over baseless allegations. We need to remember that people are presumed innocent in this country. The same holds true for people accused of sexual abuse.

Imagine if there was a SBC database and they put your name in there because some 13 year old's Mother got mad at you. That's why we have the legal system and courts in this country. The SBC doesn't need to get into that business.

Seneca Griggs said...

"There are penalties under the law for not reporting sexual abuse. The local authorities just need to prosecute the offending pastors"

Actually, the law regarding "priest-penitent" takes many different forms according to the state.

Under some states; pastors are NOT required to report abuse.

Anonymous said...

Where I live they are required by law to do so, therefore, I must live in a pretty good state. Now they just need to enforce the law.

Anonymous said...

It is a rush to judgement!

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. Here is just ONE example of someone who did not report it but also protected the pervert:

Steve Gaines. It is a proven fact he protected a pervert and did not tell his church this pervert was in an official position within his church. It was only when it becamse public was anything done and then Gaines said it was "under the blood" as his excuse.


And Gaines still works there~! He got a pass from people. They believed his excuses.

So, until people start taking this seriously and want to protect kids rather an worship a pastor, nothing will change.

For people to trot out the innocent until proven guilty I guess the same could be said of an embezzler. You keep him in charge of the money until a court of law determines his guilt. Right. I bet that happens all the time when accusations surface or inconsistences arise over money handling. (rolls eyes)

No, you remove them from that position until it is investigated and ruled upon.

Too bad these commenters don't think kids are more important than money.

Anonymous said...

One thing the SBC could do is stop idolizing those who do not report such thigns to the authorities. Stop acting like it is no big deal. Stop inviting them to speak places. stop acting like they are real pastors. If their people want to keep them then that means their own people are deluded.

I am baffled why guys like Graham, Gaines and others are taken seriously at all by the SBC. They should be shunned big time. They care more about their own reputations than innocent kids. Seriously? People think that is a good attribute for a pastor?

Thy Peace said...

Another baptist pastor ...

Anonymous said...

Just because these men look like perverts does not mean that they really are perverts.

We will all stand before the ultimate Judge one day....

AND DOG.....THAT AIN'T YOU!!!

Anonymous said...

Why do so many people seem to have more sympathy for the possible perpetrator than for a child? And why doesn't God do something about all this? I was taught that God loves me, cares for me, will protect me. Reality doesn't seem to match up with that message. Has anybody else noticed that?

Thy Peace said...

SBC Plodder [William Thornton] > Why silence from SBCers about clergy sex abusers is especially troublesome

Katie said...

Anon 8:36 AM

"And why doesn't God do something about all this? I was taught that God loves me, cares for me, will protect me. Reality doesn't seem to match up with that message. Has anybody else noticed that?"

It's a fair question and one that many people ask, especially when they want to determine there is no God.

Matthew 5:45 tells us clearly that God makes the sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and unjust. Being a Christian doesn't isolate us from all the bad things that happen in life. We are subject to the same laws of disease, frequency of accidents, and crime. I'm a victim of child sexual assault. I was only 6 years old. Over the years God has used that evil to teach me about forgiveness, justice and a hundred other life challenges. Ask anyone who has had this happen to them, and they'll tell you, it is a part of their lives that never completely goes away. However, a good many of us have been able to harness what we have learned to help others.

Whatever may happen to us in life, God is faithful.

Seneca Griggs said...

Clergy abuse:

http://fisheaters.com/clergysexabuse.html

Debbie Kaufman said...

Jeff: I am SBC and I say that's bologna.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am SBC too and Jeff is totally correct. Some of you need to go back and study the structure of the SBC.

Anonymous said...

It's a fair question and one that many people ask, especially when they want to determine there is no God."

Katie,
I, too, think it's a fair question. I ask it, not because I "want to determine there is no God." I used to think there was a God, and still wonder if there is or not. I don't need for there to be on God. I just think God not helping people who are being abused could show that there likely isn't a God up there. Or you could conclude he's not a God who intervenes when children are being abused. Then you read about his love, care, etc. It gets quite confusing. What does love and care mean if they don't apply in a child abuse situation? What good is that kind of love and care?

I've never been abused. You certainly seem to have a good attitude toward what happened to you, and I commend you for that. My point was simply that it makes no sense to be told of God's love, care, and protection (that's all in the Bible also)and then to decide, well, those things can't be applied to protecting you from abuse.

Anonymous said...

The structure of the SBC seems to be they are powerful when they want to be, and they are simply an innocent, powerless bystander when it's convenient. I guess it all works technically, but it sure ain't moral or anything to be proud of. Kinda like getting off on a technicality. Who can be proud of that?

Southwestern Discomfort said...

Here's another abuser, a serial abuser (first arrested for sexual abuse of a 14 year old girl at the beginning of November): http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=8419198


Now, he apparently had also sexually abused a 16 year old girl while he was a pastor at Second Baptist Church (the church of Ed Young Sr. in Houston, you know, father of the Ed Young talked about so much on this blog): http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/15-000-sexts-evidence-against-youth-pastor-2407098.php

Stangela said...

Seneca aka James Brown whats the matter- didnt you get enough Christmas cards?