20 years of sexual misconduct by Southern Baptist church leaders have left more than 700 victims with traumatic experiences that have caused them psychological, physical, and emotional struggles on all levels.
Victims of the church’s sex abuse have been left to deal with their suffering alone while being shunned by their churches, forced to get abortions, and forced to forgive and forget about the sexual abuse he or she experienced. The majority of the 700 victims, both male and female, were molested, raped, and sexually harassed when they were adolescents. The abusers preyed on the young and stole the innocence of children who trusted their youth pastors and Sunday school teachers. The trauma caused by these horrific experiences created lifelong suffering and led some victims to take their own lives at young ages.
Sexually Abused by a Pastor
Debbie Vasquez was sexually assaulted multiple times during her teenage years and was left pregnant by a married Southern Baptist pastor a dozen years older than her. Years later, when on allegationsher 40s, she and other brave victims asked Southern Baptist leaders to act on allegations of sexual abuse and the churches that worked to conceal and hide the abusers. They want policies similar to those adopted by the Catholic Church to be put in place to prevent such horrific sex crimes from happening. It only took a few days for Vasquez to learn that the Southern Baptist leaders rejected just about every policy reform that was requested.
Heather Schneider was only 14 years old when she was molested in a church choir room. The day after the incident, Schneider slit her wrists but survived. The abuser was able to continue working at the Second Baptist Church in Houston for months before finally being fired. 14 years after the incident, Schneider died from a drug overdose that her mother says was a result of the trauma.
How long has church sex abuse been an issue?
Sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Church has been an ongoing issue since 1998. The Southern Baptist Church is not the only faith under fire from similar allegations. The Catholic Church has been accused of sexual abuse for decades, but there wasn’t any national attention in the media until the 1980s. Regardless of faith, reports of sexual misconduct in churches occur too often.
About 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have been accused of various forms of sexual abuse since 1998. The 380 perpetrators, including those who confessed and resigned, were credibly accused and were successfully sued. More than 100 of them are registered sex offenders and the majority of these sex offenders work in churches located in Texas.
Ministers, pastors, Deacons, choir directors, volunteers, and Sunday school teachers are all included in this list of 380 sexual predators. 220 of these abusers have been convicted or accepted plea deals while several cases are still pending. There are about 100 still being held in prisons that span the distance from Sacramento County, CA to Hillsborough County, FL.
Several factors show how this issue is actually more rampant than what is documented. Sexual abuse victims are reluctant to speak out because of embarrassment, depression, blackmail, and lack of support. Cases of church sexual abuse are often handled within the church to prevent news of the crime from reaching the media. The cases associated with the Southern Baptist Church are especially difficult to track since most of these churches are in rural communities where there is significantly less media coverage.
The most astonishing and unsettling fact here is that some of these accused sexual abusers are still working in the Southern Baptist Church today.
Investigation into Southern Baptist Church Sexual Misconduct
Back in 2007, victims asked the Southern Baptist Church to create a registry of names of church leaders who have been credibly accused or convicted of sex crimes. However, the church denied the request. More recently in 2018, there was another request for a sexual offender registry by advocates and victims. Instead of waiting for the church to respond, reporters from the Houston Chronicle began an investigation into sexual misconduct within the Southern Baptist Church.
The investigation lasted about six months and journalists searched through thousands of court reports, police records, and prison records. News archives and online databases from nationwide sources were also reviewed to find historical information on church sexual abuse. The information that was found involved a vast number of complaints and allegations of different forms of sexual misconduct against hundreds of Southern Baptist Church officials throughout the nation.
Sexual Abusers Are Still Welcomed By The Church
The investigation revealed some disturbing information about the abuser’s current position and who helped conceal them after claims of sexual abuse surfaced. Some of the perpetrators were high authority officials, multiple former presidents and other prominent leaders of the Southern Baptist Church who were involved in harboring and concealing criminals. Reporters at the Houston Chronicle discovered that many church leaders failed to report the alleged crimes to law enforcement. It also found that at least 35 sexual predators had no issues finding jobs at churches within recent years. There were even several registered sex offenders that either returned to the pulpit or remained at the pulpit. This includes a preacher from Houston who sexually assaulted a teenager and is currently the principal officer of Touching the Future Today Inc., a nonprofit that works with student organizations.
The current Southern Baptist Church President, J.D. Greear contacted the Houston Chronicle to say that, “The Bible calls for pastors to be people of integrity, known for their self-control and kindness,” Greear continued by also saying, “A convicted sex offender would certainly not meet those qualifications. Churches that ignore that are out of line with both Scripture and Baptist principles of cooperation.”
Despite Greear’s comments, the investigation found that since 1998, at least 10 Southern Baptist Churches have welcomed volunteers, ministers and pastors who had been charged with sexual misconduct in the past and some were registered sex offenders.
Victims of church sex abuse should contact an experienced sexual abuse lawyer for legal assistance. Professionals at KBA Attorneys provide confidential free case evaluations and trustworthy legal services. Contact our sexual abuse law firm to seek the justice you deserve.