U.S. Southern Baptists release scathing report on sexual abuse
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[May 23, 2022] By
ATLANTA (Reuters) -For decades, complaints
of sex abuse by pastors and staff in the largest U.S. Protestant
denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, were either ignored or
covered up by top clergy, according to an internal report released on
The nearly 300-page report details how complaints were kept as "closely
guarded secrets" within the church to avoid liability, "to exclusion of
all other considerations," it said.
"In service to this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were
ignored, disbelieved," the report said, with church leaders covering up
accusations and allowing accused clergy members to remain pastors or in
other positions of authority.
Lawsuits against the church were denigrated as "opportunistic" and not
having merit, it said.
The year-long investigation was initiated by the Southern Baptist
Convention in June 2021, when a stream of complaints were raised at its
annual meeting. The complaints focused on sexual abuse by pastors and
volunteers and the lack of response by the religious body's executive
"We are grieved by the findings of this investigation,” Rolland Slade,
chairman of the church's executive committee, said in a statement.
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“We are committed to doing all we can to prevent
future instances of sexual abuse in churches, to improve our
response and our care, (and) to remove reporting roadblocks," the
The Southern Baptist Church Convention claims more than 13 million
members in the United States and more than 40 million worldwide.
The scandal echoes the one faced by the Roman Catholic Church, which
has been rocked by allegations of sexual abuse, when the Boston
Globe newspaper revealed in 2002 that church hierarchy covered up
sexual misconduct by its clergy for decades.
The U.S. Catholic Church has paid out an estimated $3.2 billion to
settle clergy abuse cases, according to BishopAccountability.org,
which tracks the issue.
In 2019, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News
reported that more than 700 victims had been abused by pastors,
leaders and volunteers in Southern Baptist congregations.
The Southern Baptist investigation was carried out by Guidepost
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Paul Simao and Tom
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