More Thoughts About SBC Clergy Sex Abuser Database

This article is from Stop Baptist Predators blog. Christa is commenting on the article I posted yesterday by Princeton professor Marcia Hamilton. I originally found the article by Hamilton on Christa’s site.

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By Christa Brown

Hamilton’s words are strong. But read for yourself the “reasons” given by SBC Executive Committee president Morris Chapman. Are they really “reasons” or just excuses?

I think Chapman reveals the falsity of his reasoning when he repeatedly refers to “convicted” sexual predators. It shows that he’s making a straw man argument.

Chapman claims that a “Baptist only” database of convicted sex offenders would be less comprehensive than the federal database of convicted sex offenders. Because the federal database of convicted sex offenders is the most comprehensive one, it’s the “best resource,” says Chapman.

But this was never about creating a database of only the convicted. It was about creating a database of convicted, confessed and credibly accused clergy predators. That last part – the “credibly accused” part – is critically important.

For Chapman to focus only on the convicted shows either ignorance or disingenuousness.

Experts far and wide – scholars, law-enforcement, and child advocacy groups – universally recognize that most active child molesters have never been convicted of anything. This means they won’t show up on the federal database of convicted sex offenders.

This reality – i.e., that most child molesters have never been convicted and can’t be prosecuted – is why most other major faith groups have systems to objectively assess the credibility of abuse allegations against their clergy. Even if faith leaders can’t put such men in jail, they can at least prevent them from using their weapon of ministerial trust to molest and rape kids in some other unsuspecting congregation.

Over 700 Catholic priests have now been removed from active ministry based on “credible accusations” of child sex abuse. Only about 3 percent were ever convicted of anything. If Catholic leaders still professed the same tragically low standard as Southern Baptist leaders, about 679 of those “credibly accused” priests would still be in ministry and working with kids.

For that matter, if they took off their collar, those “credibly accused” priests could now go to work in Southern Baptist churches. After all, they aren’t going to show up on the federal database of convicted sex offenders.

In real-world effect, Southern Baptists are allowing that men may continue in ministry unless and until they show up on a federal database of convicted sex offenders. This is a terrifyingly low standard that leaves kids in harm’s way.

In that light, Morris Chapman came close to getting something right when he reiterated the SBC’s oh-so-useful autonomy excuse. “The world may never understand our polity,” he said.

What the world will never understand is how a powerful religious group that purports to be a moral beacon can possibly prioritize the protection of “polity” over the protection of kids against the clergy who prey on them.

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