Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

SOUTHERN BAPTIST SEX ABUSE

If you or a loved one has suffered from sexual abuse at the hands of a Southern Baptist minister or church employee, you do not have to suffer in silence. Talk to an AVA legal expert today and take your first step towards healing.
CALL US TODAY
REQUEST A FREE, IN-DEPTH CASE EVALUATION

Everything You Need To Know About the Southern Baptist Convention Sex Abuse Scandal

With over 15 million members, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the United State's largest Protestant denomination.
The SBC has always tried to distinguish itself from the Catholic Church by emphasizing a decentralized church with a system that prioritizes local church autonomy.
Church autonomy has always allowed the SCB to distance itself from the type of abuse scandals plaguing the Catholic Church. However, recent investigations suggest that the two denominations might be more similar than SBC church leaders want to admit.
A 2022 independent investigation and the following release of a list of alleged abusers have revealed an organization engaging in two decades worth of cover-ups and defamation.
One theologist called the bombshell report an apocalypse.
Instead of protecting the most vulnerable community members, the Southern Baptist Convention prioritized mitigating any legal liability.

The SBC Independent Investigation

In May 2022, Guidepost Solutions released an investigation into church leaders and staff who allegedly participated in or actively suppressed two decades of allegations of abuse and accusations against prominent church leaders and employees.
The report notes that victims and concerned church members had reported abusers to the Southern Baptists Convention's Executive Committee for years with no progress.
"They made phone calls, mailed letters, sent emails, appeared at SBC and EC meetings, held rallies, and contacted the press…only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC." 1

THE SBC'S MISHANDLING ABUSE ALLEGATIONS

Guidepost Solutions looked into the Executive Committee's response to abuse allegations. The investigation found that the committee either ignored accusations.
The report found that the Executive Committee doubled down on ignoring victims and telling them that the SBC lacked authority to investigate claims against independent churches.
The investigation concluded that The Executive Committee's main concern was not the victims but a focus on avoiding legality.
"Despite collecting these reports for more than ten years, there is no indication that [the Executive Committee] took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches." 1

THE SBC ENGAGED IN VICTIM INTIMIDATION

The investigation into how the Southern Baptist Convention mishandled abuse allegations also found a coordinated effort to intimidate, discredit, and shame victims.
Guidepost Solutions found that church leaders used the organization's press to launch a misinformation campaign and create narratives that protected abusers and "minimized ... ignored or even vilified" survivors. 1
The report uncovered internal emails where church leaders disparaged victims, advocates, and critics. In one email, one prominent Executive Committee member complained about two outspoken women and even accused them of wanting attention.
"They have gone to the SBC looking for sexual abuse," the email read, "and of course, they found it." 1

THE SBC RESISTED REFORMS

Guidepost Solutions found evidence through internal emails and documentation that the SBC's Executive Committee consistently opposed reform proposals.
According to the report, "A 2007 proposal for an SBC database of accused molesters was rejected in 2008 based on church autonomy, even though SBC outside counsel had submitted a memo ... discussing how it could be accomplished consistent with polity." 1
In fact, evidence uncovered in the investigation suggests a committee that became increasingly hostile toward suggestions, regardless of their feasibility.

ROLES OF SEXUAL PREDATORS IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

According to bishop-accountability.org's the list of confirmed sexual predators in the Catholic Church, Catholic clergy sexual abusers hold all levels of positions and titles. Clergy credibly accused of abuse held roles including the following:
Priest
Bishop
Deacon
Nun
Volunteer
Staff Member
Other people affiliated with the Catholic Church

The SBC Resisted Reforms

Guidepost Solutions found evidence through internal emails and documentation that the SBC's Executive Committee consistently opposed reform proposals.
According to the report, "A 2007 proposal for an SBC database of accused molesters was rejected in 2008 based on church autonomy, even though SBC outside counsel had submitted a memo ... discussing how it could be accomplished consistent with polity." 1
In fact, evidence uncovered in the investigation suggests a committee that became increasingly hostile toward suggestions, regardless of their feasibility.

THE SBC HAS A HISTORY OF USING POLITY TO DISTANCE ITSELF FROM ABUSE SCANDALS

In 2019, investigative journalist Robert Downen explained how the Southern Baptist Convention uses polity (how an organization structures its government) to mitigate its role in the recent sexual abuse scandals.
"Effectively, the Southern Baptist Convention is less of a denomination than a cooperative of 47,000 churches," Downen explained. "[E]ach of which is independent and self-governing." 2
Essentially, Southern Baptists place value on the autonomy of the individual church, and, therefore, the SBC is not a centralized church. Instead, the SBC acts more like a fellowship or a network.
All churches associated with the SBC operate independently of the organization. The SBC doesn't dictate an individual church's bylaws, budget, leader, or community policies.
Furthermore, the report notes that "Local church participation with the SBC is voluntary and cooperative." 1
The SBC has no direct authority to implement widespread changes affecting local churches.
Still, critics of the SBC say the organization could have done more to protect victims despite its limited authority.
The Southern Baptist Convention does have the authority to withdraw church fellowships when leadership decides the church is no longer in compliance with Southern Baptist teachings.
In fact, over the years, the SBC has withdrawn fellowship from at least four churches that supported the LGBTQ+ community.
However, the SBC has not made such a coordinated effort to distance itself from churches with known sex offenders leading from behind the pulpit, despite documenting known cases for themselves.

Holding the Southern Baptist Convention Accountable

For decades the Southern Baptist Convention has sat on allegations of abuse. Evidence proves that the SBC took no action and dismissed victims. Furthermore, the report shows how the SBC chose to further traumatize victims by heading a misinformation campaign against them.
The good news is that with recent cultural shifts in attitudes toward sexual assault, people want to hold institutions that protect predators accountable. Legal restitution is possible.
While we understand monetary compensation cannot undo the damage an abuser has caused in your life, it will hold them accountable.
Sexual abuse survivors often face extreme emotional and physical trauma from their abuse, so monetary compensation can help cover financial burdens created by necessary counseling, doctor visits, etc.
AVA Law Group Andrew Van Arsdale in Courtroom

Finding the Right Lawyer for Your Case

Consulting with an experienced attorney is essential when considering an SBC sexual abuse case. Based on the specific details of your case, a sexual abuse lawyer can help you make critical decisions about where to file your lawsuit, who to pursue, if your case meets the time requirements for filing a suit, etc.
At AVA Law Group, we provide access to top-notch, experienced sexual abuse attorneys from across the U.S. with proven track records of success.
In addition to our high-quality legal staff, we value your story. Our legal team will work to ensure the courts hear your voice.
You deserve justice for the trauma you endured, and we promise to fight aggressively to protect your rights.
If you or a loved one has suffered from sexual abuse at the hands of a Southern Baptist minister or church employee, you may be entitled to compensation.
Talk to an AVA legal expert today and take your first step towards healing.

Page Sources:

1. Guidepost Solutions Independent Investigation Report. Guidepost Solutions; May 2022. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/22031737-final-guidepost-solutions-independent-investigation-report?responsive=1&title=1. Accessed June 6, 2022.
2. Brangham, William.Southern Baptist officials sexually abused hundreds, new reports reveal. PBS NewsHour; February 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ud6PNsqcqKw. Accessed June 6, 2022.

Problem Solving is our promise

When you work with AVA Law Group, Inc., you put your trust in legal professionals with the expertise and experience to make walking through the legal process easy.
We provide a team of attorney, paralegals, and case managers to clients at no upfront cost.
AVA Law Group eliminates the confusion of filing a claim by working on your claim and, if necessary, connecting you with one our many partner firms that fits your needs and will get you the best results.
We’re available 24/7 to provide you with the information you need about case qualification.

Contact Us Today for your free, in-depth case evaluation

We're on Your Side
We're available 24/7
no fees unless you win

Free in-depth 
no obligation case evaluation

ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT: Not available in all states, Andrew Van Arsdale, supervising attorney is licensed only in California, Montana and Nevada, but associates with attorneys throughout the country, Principal office: 3667 Voltaire Street, San Diego, California 92106.

Consult a doctor on all medical decisions. Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting with your doctor. Discontinuing a prescribed medication without your doctor's advice can result in injury or death. No representation is made that the quality of the legal services performed is greater than the quality of the legal services performed by other lawyers. AVA Law Group, Inc. not accepting cases in states where this advertising conflicts with laws or state rules. Legal representation is not offered or available in Tennessee. While AVA Law Group, Inc. maintains joint responsibility, most cases are referred to other attorneys for principal responsibility.
envelopeprinterphone-handsetmap-markerarrow-right
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram