As Foleygate unfolds, the Religious Right remains mute about its own child sex abuse scandal.
Justthree days before Representative Foley resigned, I was standing at thedoorstep of the Southern Baptist Convention, asking it to implementprocedures to rid their ranks of clergy predators and make kids safer.Along with other delegates from SNAP - the Survivors' Network of thoseAbused by Priests and other Clergy - we presented Baptist leaders witha letter asking for the creation of an independent review board toinvestigate accounts of clergy sex abuse. Despite a multi-part seriesin EthicsDaily, the SBC's response has been one of avoidance.
Ratherthan taking action to protect kids, SBC leaders seem to think that ifthey close their eyes long enough, the problem will go away. This is avery dangerous sort of blindness that leaves kids at risk.
SNAPwent to the SBC's Nashville doorstep because, in recent months, SNAPhas heard from dozens of people, reporting that they were sexuallyabused by Southern Baptist clergy.
I myself know thesoul-murdering impact of such trauma because I was sexually abused by aSouthern Baptist minister when I was a teen church girl in Dallas.Another minister knew about it at the time - and eventually swore tothat knowledge - but the perpetrator was sent on his way, and I wastold not to speak of it. Not until my daughter reached adolescence didI resurrect the horrific memories and begin to deal with them. To mysurprise, although my report was readily substantiated, nodenominational leader seemed to think it mattered much. In fact, theSBC wrote that it had no record the man was still in ministry. Yet, Ifound him at a prominent church in Florida.
Even after eighteenSouthern Baptist leaders in four different states were put on notice ofmy substantiated report, the man still remained in ministry. Not untilover a year later, when I filed a lawsuit that was reported in theOrlando Sentinel, was the man finally asked to resign.
Where isthe outrage at Baptist leaders? Where is the committee that willinvestigate? Where is there any process for accountability?
TheHouse of Representatives has 435 members, and when it was disclosedthat one of those members sent lurid emails to a teen, the matter wasreferred to an investigatory committee to find out who knew what andwhen did they know it.
Southern Baptists have over 101,000clergy. But when 18 of their leaders received information about aminister's sexual abuse of a minor – abuse more serious than emails –they all turned a blind eye. And there is no investigatory committee.
Eventhough the Dallas church finally issued a court-filed apology for the"very serious sexual abuse" inflicted on me as a kid, nothing haschanged. Those many blind Baptist leaders are still in leadershippositions. Are kids safe in a system so lacking in accountability?
Thereal horror of my experience rests not in the nightmare of a ministerwho would sexually assault a kid, because as beastly as that may be, heis just one man. The real horror is in the blindness of so many otherleaders who failed to take appropriate action for the protection ofothers.
In the midst of Foleygate, it would be an opportune timefor the Southern Baptist Convention to get its own house in order,starting with the creation of an independent board for investigatingreports of clergy sex abuse. After all, as a group of religious leaderswrote in a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, "protecting childrenis a biblical responsibility."
Christa Brown is the founder of Voiceto Stop Baptist Predators and the coordinator for SNAP-Baptist. She isa wife, mother, attorney, jazz-lover, slow-plodding-runner, and asurvivor of Southern Baptist clergy abuse. www.stopbaptistpredators.org
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