Southern Baptist Convention’s Bombshell Sex Abuse Scandal Shakes Up Church

Have you been harmed by the SBC? Contact us today

A shocking third-party investigation released in May reveals the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) covered up decades of sexual assault and abuse allegations in order to protect both personal and financial interests of the church. The report also found leaders stonewalled efforts to hold abusers accountable and even intimidated victims of assault.

Guidepost Solutions published the report on May 22, stating in part:

For almost two decades, survivors of abuse and other concerned Southern Baptists have been contacting the Southern Baptist Convention (“SBC”) Executive Committee (“EC”) to report child molesters and other abusers who were in the pulpit or employed as church staff. They made phone calls, mailed letters, sent emails, appeared at SBC and EC meetings, held rallies, and contacted the press…only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC.

This outcry finally came to a head in 2021, when the SBC’s Executive Committee voted to “open up legally protected records to investigators who will look into how it handled, or mishandled, cases of sexual abuse within the nation's largest Protestant denomination over the past two decades.”

The motion led to the investigation, revealing the massive scale of cover-ups and intimidation tactics the SBC used to silence victims of sexual abuse within the church.

McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips has already filed a lawsuit against SBC. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.

Contact Us If You Have Been Harmed By The SBC

How much did Southern Baptist leaders know?

Everything. According to the report, Southern Baptist leaders not only knew about sexual abuse and assault occurring within the church – they actively worked to suppress victim reports and efforts for reform. NPR recently spoke with Robert Downen, who broke the SBC sex abuse story back in 2019 for the Houston Chronicle. He describes a “secret list” of sex abusers maintained by the church:

This was a list that was commissioned at the behest of a top SBC leader and one of their longtime lawyers. And basically, what it did is it compiled Google Alerts and other news stories about criminal charges. And since 2007, that list had grown to more than 700 names. Most of them were confirmed as Southern Baptist affiliated. And a handful of them at the time of the report last week were still working in churches, including in other denominations.

You can read the 205-page list of SBC sex abusers here.

Southern Baptist Convention’s Bombshell Sex Abuse Scandal Shakes Up Church

How did the SBC treat victims of sexual abuse?

Guidepost Solutions’ investigation notes that when victims came to the SBC to report incidents of abuse and assault, leaders repeated a pattern of intimidation and further abuse:

Rather than focusing on these accused ministers, some EC leaders turned against the very people trying to shine a light on sexual abuse. The survivors – those persons who actually suffered at the hands of SBC clergy or SBC church staff or volunteers – who spoke out the most, and who criticized the SBC’s inaction, were denigrated as “opportunistic,” having a “hidden agenda of lawsuits,” wanting to “burn things to the ground,” and acting as a “professional victim.”

For many survivors of sexual abuse, this can be an assault all over again. Downen tells NPR, “And what we see in this report really corroborates what survivors have been saying for years, which was that Southern Baptist leaders were, at best, not taking the crisis seriously, at worst, actively misleading their own churches about it as a means of protecting the SBC from lawsuits.”

In addition to a variety of recommendations, including setting out standards to handle future sexual abuse allegations at every level of the SBC, Guidepost also recommended the following: “Acknowledge those who have been affected by SBC clergy sexual abuse, through both a sincere apology and a tangible gesture, and prioritize the provision of compassionate care to survivors through providing dedicated survivor advocacy support and a survivor compensation fund.”

I was sexually assaulted by a church leader. Can you help?

The differential of power between a church leader and a parishioner is like any other power balance – an employee/boss relationship or a student/teacher relationship. You may feel you do not have the authority to reject or rebuff sexual advances, or you may feel physically or emotionally threatened if you don’t comply. Any type of sexual “relationship” between a religious leader and a parishioner is not consensual – it is an unjust and criminal act.

If you or a family member have been sexually assaulted by a member of the SBC or other religious organization, our South Carolina attorneys can help. As a survivor of sexual abuse, you may be eligible for compensation and to hold your abuser accountable for the harm they caused. Our attorneys seek to recover damages including:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental health treatment and therapy
  • Emotional anguish
  • Treatment for future medical expenses
  • Punitive damages

We have an impressive track record of successful settlements and jury verdicts for our clients and promise to advocate for you from beginning to end.

If you or a member of your family suffered harm at the hands of a pastor or employee of a church or the Southern Baptist Convention, please call the sexual abuse attorneys at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC today. We dedicate ourselves to every single client, advocating for their best interests and working for justice on their behalf. To schedule a free case review with one of our experienced South Carolina lawyers, call today at 803-327-7800 or use our contact form. Your case review is always confidential.