Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The cost of Baptist clergy sexual abuse

What would you think the real cost to a church is when its pastor or youth pastor abuses children. Pastor Douglas Myers was convicted of molesting a boy repeatedly over a six-month period in 2005. He was sentenced and is served time on one count of lewd or lascivious molestation. He was released in 2012. The damage from his case… a jury awarded the victim $12.5 million. The award is under appeal.

This case is fascinating as it strikes at the heart of abuse by baptist pastors. With no central governing body for Southern Baptists, there is no accountability. This is true despite the Southern Baptist Convention sticking their noses in just about everything else, and gawd help you if you preach something hinky. 

The judgment, reported by the Orlando Sentinel, followed a six-day trial over the matter of damages. Another jury in May 2012 found the Florida Baptist Convention liable for running criminal, credit and background checks but neglecting to check references before helping Myers plant two now-defunct churches with training, financial aid and what the lawsuit termed implied endorsement by reporting news of his endeavor in the Baptist state newspaper.

At the time a lawyer representing Florida Baptists challenged the ruling, saying it was inconsistent for the jury to agree with the convention’s main argument that Myers was not an employee of the state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention and yet still hold convention officials accountable for actions of someone they did not hire or supervise, but an appeal could not be filed until after the penalty phase.

The Souther Baptist Convention is on the hook for this.

The mother of the Florida victim identified only by the initial “J” filed a lawsuit in 2007 claiming that officials of the Florida Baptist Convention and Lake County Baptist Association, which gave Myers office space, should have known he was unfit for ministry before recruiting him to establish new Southern Baptist churches in Florida.

As a church planter, the lawsuit said, Myers acted as an "agent" of the convention, receiving organizational support including health insurance, retirement services and support through the state convention's Cooperative Program budget.

Myers was a pastor with a known problem with young boys, but the old boy network did little to make it difficult for Myers. No it looks like they will pay.