A Tarrant County judge criticized the lead pastor of the Alliance Baptist Church in Fort Worth for his handling of sexual abuse allegations involving youth pastor John Cordero.
Cordero pleaded guilty to having sex with a 16-year-old girl from the church. Pastor Terry Kizer was testifying during Cordero's sentencing hearing when State District Judge Scott Wisch issued a harsh rebuke for Kizer's alleged mishandling of reported abuse. Kizer never notified congregation members of the allegations against Cordero. He also removed Cordero as the youth pastor but allowed him to return to the church two months after the allegations were made, before the case was resolved.
According to court transcripts, Judge Wisch told Kizer that "You didn’t take a fraction of the efforts that I would call traditional and appropriate and, in hindsight, not compassionate...When there are minors involved and it’s clearly a crime, sometimes you have to quarantine part of the flock until you find out if it’s rabies or something weird and go from there."
According to a story by the Star-Telegram, church members raised concerns about Cordero's behavior before he was named as a youth pastor. A 17-year-old congregation member had told Kizer that Cordero initiated inappropriate sexual conduct with her six years earlier. In this story, church members also say that he withheld information and gave inaccurate information about the most recent allegations against Cordero and two other sex offenders in the congregation.
According to the same Star-Telegram article, a police detective says she told Kizer about the investigation into Cordero in October 2017, but then discovered in April 2018 that Cordero was still participating in church activities and regularly around children at the church.
Kizer has also been accused of hiding other allegations of sexual abuse involving church members. He hired Jay Virtue Robinson, who pleaded guilty to having sex with a teen church member while he was the lead pastor at Southwood Baptist Church and was placed on 10 years of deferred adjudication probation. Robinson was eventually sent to prison for violating his position after he was appointed to a church leadership role, which was a violation of his probation terms.
James Earl Busby, another Alliance church member, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the sexual abuse of two young girls in February 2018. Kizer is accused of failing to notify church members of these charges and has been criticized for allowing Busby to continue attending the church until his sentencing.
Attorney contributor Marc Lenahan represents survivors of sexual violence in civil lawsuits. Here are some of Marc's thoughts on the legal options available to those who have survived sexual abuse in religious organizations:
Sexual predators are often found in positions of trust, including our schools, religious organizations, hospitals, and other places most of would not expect. Organizations like the Catholic Church and independent fundamentalist Baptists have both had high-profile scandals involving widespread abuse by church leaders. In many cases, these organizations have even been accused of covering up the abuse.
Church leaders have a duty to do all that they can to keep their congregation members safe. When church leadership attempts to cover up abuse by a church leader or congregation member, the safety of the community is at risk. Covering up these crimes allows these abusers to continue participating in church activities and to potentially continue committing crimes.
When the leaders of religious organizations fail to keep their congregation safe from sexual predators, the victims of these crimes may have grounds for a lawsuit. If you or a loved one has survived sexual abuse in a religious organization, you can learn more about your family's legal options by speaking to one of our experienced sex abuse survivors attorneys.