On Friday, August 12th, the Southern Baptist Convention announced that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating multiple arms of the religious organization following the results of an internal report showing mishandled cases of sexual abuse. This report, handled by a third-party organization but commissioned by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), found that sex abuse survivors were often ignored, minimized, and “vilified” by top clergy within the organization.
The SBC is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. The 300-page report, which went over the period between 2000 and 2021, is the first of its kind for a religious organization as large as the SBC. The report focused on actions by the executive committee. It showcased the fact that denominational leaders actively resisted calls for abuse prevention and reform for decades. Evidence also suggests that the group’s leaders told Southern Baptists they could not maintain a list of sexual offenders to prevent further abuse while actually keeping a secret list for years.
“The SBC Executive Committee recently became aware that the Department of Justice has initiated an investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention, and that the investigation will include multiple SBC entities,” was the statement issued by 14 SBC leaders from multiple top entities. “Individually and collectively each SBC entity is resolved to fully and completely cooperate with the investigation.”
At this year’s annual SBC meeting, a recommendation to create a database tracking sexual offenders and abusers passed as well as an agreement to create a formal group to handle sex abuse accusations going forward.
“While we continue to grieve and lament past mistakes related to sexual abuse, current leaders across the SBC have demonstrated a firm conviction to address those issues of the past and are implementing measures to ensure they are never repeated in the future,” the statement from SBC read. “The fact that the SBC Executive Committee recently completed a fully transparent investigation is evidence of this commitment. We recognize our reform efforts are not finished.”
Attorneys for the SBC Executive Committee said that the committee has received a subpoena, but “no individuals have been subpoenaed at this point.”
For many years now, survivors of sexual assault in church settings have been calling on church officials and organizations to admit that abuse has occurred and put systems in place to hold abusers accountable and stop further abuse from happening. When the leaders of religious groups are involved in covering up sexual crimes, it becomes almost impossible for sexual offenders to become discovered. With the Department of Justice involved, those guilty of committing sexual crimes in the Southern Baptist Convention will be able to be held accountable for the harm they caused.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Thomas Law Offices today to learn if we may be able to help. We have unique experience handling several major sexual assault cases here in Kentucky and understand the dedication and commitment required.