A December 2018 report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has shed light on the widespread issues of sexual misconduct in independent fundamental Baptist churches and affiliated institutions across the United States and Canada. According to their investigation, there have been at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in 187 of these churches, with cases in 40 US states and Canada. 21 of these allegations were uncovered exclusively by the Star-Telegram.
The investigation determined that 168 church leaders have been accused of convicted of sexual crimes against children. And to make matters even more troubling, at least 45 of these alleged abusers continued practicing in the ministry after church authorities or law enforcement was notified of the allegations.
According to the report, several pastors admitted in interviews with the Star-Telegram that they had transferred alleged abusers out of their churches instead of contacting the police. In many of these cases, the statute of limitations for the crimes has expired, making the legal situation more difficult to navigate.
Former members of independent fundamental churches said that these churches have a culture where the pastor is the ultimate authority, where legal issues should be brought to the pastor instead of law enforcement. Some of those interviewed called the culture "authoritarian."
Attorney contributor Marc Lenahan represents survivors of sexual violence in civil lawsuits. We've asked him to discuss how the legal system can help survivors of Baptist Church sexual abuse find justice:
In cases of sexual abuse involving religious organizations, it's all too common for these organizations to attempt to cover up the abuse. We have seen this in the Catholic Church, where priests are often transferred to other congregations instead of being turned over to law enforcement. The Star-Telegram's report on sexual abuse in independent fundamentalist Baptist churches has revealed the same culture of secrecy within this denomination of Christianity.
The victims of these heinous crimes deserve justice. But tragically, these churches often deny them justice by protecting their abusers and refusing to report them to the police. In cases which involve coverups and negligence by the church, the victims and their families can find justice through the legal system by filing a lawsuit against the church. These lawsuits help demand accountability for the complicity of religious organizations in sexual abuse and provide financial compensation for survivors of abuse.
If you or a loved one is a survivor of Baptist church sexual abuse, we understand the trauma your family has suffered. We want to help you find justice. To learn more about your family's legal options, contact one of our experienced sex abuse survivors attorneys for a free consultation.