S. Bap­tist abuse claims put at 380

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

SAN AN­TO­NIO — Hun­dreds of South­ern Bap­tist church lead­ers and work­ers have been ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct over the past 20 years, in­clud­ing dozens who re­turned to church du­ties, ac­cord­ing to a joint in­ves­ti­ga­tion by two news­pa­pers.

The San An­to­nio Ex­press-News and Hous­ton Chron­i­cle re­ported Sun­day that their six-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion found about 380 South­ern Bap­tist church lead­ers and work­ers who were ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct since 1998, leav­ing more than 700 vic­tims. Some were as young as 3 years old while oth­ers were adults when they were abused, the news­pa­pers re­ported.

About 220 of­fend­ers — among them pas­tors, min­is­ters, Sun­day school teach­ers, dea­cons and church vol­un­teers — have been con­victed or have taken plea deals, with dozens of cases still pend­ing. Nearly 100 are still in prison, ac­cord­ing to state and fed­eral records. Dozens of oth­ers made plea deals and served no time. More than 100 are reg­is­tered sex of­fend­ers, and some have re­turned to the pul­pit. At least 35 church pas­tors, em­ploy­ees and vol­un­teers who ex­hib­ited preda­tory be­hav­ior were still able to find jobs at churches.

Sev­eral past pres­i­dents and prom­i­nent South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion lead­ers have been ac­cused of con­ceal­ing or mis­han­dling abuse com­plaints within their churches or sem­i­nar­ies, the news­pa­pers re­ported.

In 2008, a vic­tim im­plored South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion lead­ers to track sex­ual preda­tors, act against con­gre­ga­tions that har­bored or con­cealed abusers and es­tab­lish sex­ual abuse pre­ven­tion poli­cies such as those adopted by other faiths, in­clud­ing the Ro­man Catholic Church. But the South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee re­jected the pro­pos­als.

The com­mit­tee’s in­terim pres­i­dent, Au­gust Boto, who drafted that re­jec­tion doc­u­ment, ex­pressed “sor­row” on Sun­day about the news­pa­pers’ find­ings.

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