Religion Politics and Judicial Corruption within the SBC in Houston

Two Texas newspapers compiled a database of more than 200 sexual abuse offenders involving 700 victims within the Southern Baptist Church despite decades of convention leaders refusing demands to create a list of sexual predators.

BY BENJAMIN FEARNOW & Robert Downen 

The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News collected the mugshots and sexual abuse reports of hundreds of Southern Baptist church leaders from the past two decades. More than 220 leaders including ministers, pastors and Sunday school teachers from the SBC’s 47,000 churches have been convicted of sex crimes including disturbing and heart-wrenching anecdotes of church affiliates raping young children.

Some victims were as young as 3 years old at the time they were molested or raped.

The cases detailed in the Texas newspapers’ first of three reports published Sunday reveals how more than 700 victims routinely had their stories of sexual assault and molestation pushed under the rug by church leaders. Southern Baptist Convention leaders have rejected decades of demands from victims and families to create a list of sexual predators within their affiliated churches

One victim, David Pittman, who said he was 12 at the time he was first molested in 1981 by a youth minister, said the “greatest tragedy” of the church’s widespread sexual abuse cover-ups is the loss of the Christian faith.

“So many’s people faith is murdered,” Pittman told the newspaper, saying the offending minister still works at an SBC church. “Their faith is slaughtered by these predators.”

As the Express-News and Chronicle report after years of investigation, dozens of sexual predators and child molesters were allowed to move from church-to-church or even return to their positions after being credibly accused or civilly sued by victims and their families. Many of these young victims were forced to forgive their abusers, get abortions or face accept hushed plea deals instead of being shunned by their local communities. 

At least 35 church pastors, volunteers and employees were able to find jobs within churches despite Southern Baptist Convention leaders knowing of past sexually predatory behavior. Many church leaders deliberately failed to inform law enforcement, parents or other congregation members about allegations of sexual misconduct. 

The Southern Baptist Convention was forced to admit last year ahead of its massive Dallas convention the church had long “wronged women, abused women, silenced women, objectified women.”

Vice President Mike Pence spoke to the nearly 10,000 delegates at last June’s Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, where he primarily touted President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and border wall pitches. One Virginia SBC leader had called on others to reject Pence’s appearance due to the political, as opposed to religious, nature of his presence. 

Lets jump back to last April in 2018. Paul Pressler who helped take power of the Southern baptist from moderates in 1979. At the time of the earliest allegation against him, in 1977, Pressler was still a relatively minor figure in Southern Baptist circles. His rise to power in the Southern Baptist Convention began only after his ouster from Bethel, according to his memoir and court records.

He has served as a state representative and for 14 years as a justice on Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals. During that period, the SBC moved toward a literal interpretation of the Bible and condemned homosexual behavior.

Pressler was also asked in 1989 to head President George H.W. Bush’s Office of Government Ethics, though his nomination was later withdrawn.

The list of men accusing the former Texas state judge and leading figure of the Southern Baptist Convention of sexual misconduct continues to grow.

In separate court affidavits filed this month, two men say Paul Pressler molested or solicited them for sex in a pair of incidents that span nearly 40 years. Those accusations were filed as part of a lawsuit filed last year by another man who says he was regularly raped by Pressler.

Pressler’s newest accusers are another former member of a church youth group and a lawyer who worked for Pressler’s former law firm until 2017.

The U.S. National Council on Churches lists the Southern Baptist Convention as the nation’s second-largest church and the single largest Protestant denomination.