New Abuse Scandal Arises in Southern Baptist Church

Anna Callahan and Sophia DeDonatis

Abuse within religious organizations is nothing new, but a new scandal has been brought to the forefront. Religious leaders of the Southern Baptist Church have been found to have abused over 700 victims over a period of twenty years, according to a breakthrough article by the Houston Chronicle.

Some of the victims were as young as three years old when they were abused by pastors, priests or other church workers. Most of the victims were shunned by their churches, compelled to forgive their abusers or forced to get abortions.

As many cases have shown, abuse victims, no matter their age, never fully heal from being taken advantage of. Some go on to live lives of addiction, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Regardless, the problem doesn’t only lie with the priests whom are first time offenders, but also with the church that rehires ministers, volunteers and pastors convicted of sex crimes. According to NBC News, at least 35 Southern Baptist employees or volunteers who were convicted of sex crimes or accused of sexual misconduct were still allowed to work at churches during the past two decades.

However, unlike many Catholic clergy members who were merely shifted around within the Church, some of these abusers were actually convicted of their crimes. About 220 Southern Baptist Church leaders and volunteers have been convicted of crimes related to sexual misconduct or have taken plea deals since 1998, and dozens of cases are pending.

As with most abuse, the perpetrators groom the victim. The church workers make the children feel like they can be trusted and that they know better than them. This way, when children are abused by them, they feel like they are in the wrong, that they are not victims.

“They don’t just groom the victim, they groom society,” says Wayne Springer, Chief Investigator 38th judicial district attorney office, in a video made by Jon Shapley from the Houston Chronicle. He says that the abusers convince the rest of the town that they are good and needed, while doing horrible things behind closed doors.

In 2008, the Southern Baptist convention leader refused to make reforms to curb sexual abuse. To end the ongoing battle against crime and sexual assault within the Baptist church, something must be done. The question now is how? As with the abuse that has taken place in the Catholic church, Springer says, “Handling it within the church is not going to work.”