The Southern Baptist Church is no exception to being vulnerable to sex-offenders. They easily gain trust by their fake religiosity, feigned innocence, and sugary sweet behavior. People fear to suspect them, let alone confront them., how dare they? So entrenched are they, they offend at will, believing that they are somehow immune and forgiven. I met many “religiose” while I was in prison. I watched them carry their bibles, wear religious garb, and shout scriptures and prayers. I have heard their reasons, justifications, and excuses.
What excuse does the Church have for covering these behaviors up, failing to report, failing to have offenders arrested, keeping them in service and in contact with children? At what point does the religious corporation alter its course from service to God to a business? It does so the moment it ceases to protect the children and place their own interests in front of serving God.
It does so when it puts its financial interests and reputation over the safety of a child. At that moment it is no longer a representation of holiness or house of God, but a group of possible offenders themselves, who wish to be unaccountable, and regardless of the harm to a child, continue business as usual.
Perhaps the corporation protects itself and the offender in some naïve belief that the offender is “a good, holy member’ and went astray, or is a big donor, even influential, and subjecting him or her to legal matters would embarrass his family and bring loss to the corporation. Salaries may be lost; big salaries.
PBS interviewed the president of the Southern Baptist Conference who stated that the safety of a child came before any reputation. He was informed by the host that a man accused of molesting a child was still at his job near children. He promised to take that of that once he was off the air. I called and left a message with a representative of the Southern Baptist Conference. My call was never returned.
The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News broke the story of the Southern Baptist sex abuse from their investigation. Had they not, I wonder if anything would have been done? And I wonder what is being done and how can we hold these powerful corporations accountable? Surely the police have been contacted? Maybe.
My offers to local Southern Baptists Churches have not been responded to. One would think they would be delighted to have information that will protect children from abusers. The same goes for the Catholic Churches (although I have been welcomed in several small groups at one large Catholic Church) whose higher-ups have shut down my efforts to speak before a meeting of Bishops and pretty much, at all. Why?
My presentation to a group of Jewish leadership and the community was well received in Nashville and then denied by Jewish leadership in another major city. Why?
There are no answers. No replies. It is no wonder that religious places are the favorite ones in which offenders hide. What must happen is for those of us who attend religious organizations regardless of faith, to insist that education on preventing sex abuse be made part of the ongoing training. That the reporting laws posted in public display, and actions of those within the church be logged into a book titled “Sex Abuse Claims,” open to the public. The names can be withheld.
“On May 17, 2019, a child went to Mr. or Mrs. or Deacon Johnson and claimed he or she was sexually abused. Mr. Johnson immediately called and reported this to the police, and spoke with officer Williams. Deacon Johnson also reported this in writing to the principal of the school, and head of this church, Mr. Addison.”
That is accountability. It is up to us to see that it happens.
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