US Southern Baptists release scathing report on sex abuse

ATLANTA, May 22 (Reuters) – For decades, complaints of sexual abuse by pastors and staff of America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, have been either ignored or covered up by senior clergy, according to an internal report published on Sunday.

The nearly 300-page report details how the complaints were kept as “closely guarded secrets” within the church to avoid accountability, “to the exclusion of any other consideration”, he said.

“In service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored in disbelief,” the report said, with church leaders covering up the accusations and allowing accused clergy to remain pastors or to pass away. other positions of authority.

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The lawsuits against the church have been denigrated as “opportunistic” and baseless, he added.

The year-long investigation was launched by the Southern Baptist Convention in June 2021, when a flood of complaints were raised at its annual meeting. The complaints related to sexual abuse by pastors and volunteers and the lack of response from the religious body’s executive committee. Read more

“We are saddened by the findings of this investigation,” Rolland Slade, chairman of the church’s executive committee, said in a statement.

“We are committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches, to improve our response and care, (and) to remove barriers to reporting,” the statement read.

The Southern Baptist Church Convention claims over 13 million members in the United States and over 40 million worldwide.

The scandal echoes that facing the Roman Catholic Church, which was rocked by allegations of sexual abuse, when the Boston Globe newspaper revealed in 2002 that the Church’s hierarchy had covered up the sexual misconduct of its clergy for decades.

The US Catholic Church has paid about $3.2 billion to settle clergy abuse cases, according to BishopAccountability.org, which tracks the issue.

In 2019, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reported that more than 700 victims had been abused by pastors, leaders, and volunteers in Southern Baptist congregations. Read more

The Southern Baptist survey was conducted by Guidepost Solutions LLC.

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Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Paul Simao and Tom Hogue

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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