Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: Maybe It Really <i>Can't</i> Be Done

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Maybe It Really Can't Be Done

There have been suggestions, and indeed motions made at the annual meeting, that the SBC should maintain a database of people convicted, or credibly accused, of sexual abuse or pedophilia .. or anything along those lines. There have been arguments on why they should, and reasons given why they shouldn't, do that.

Up until now, I've been a supporter of the SBC acting as a "clearing house" for such information. But as of this week, owing to a case right here, among people I have met and know, I'm not in favor of the SBC entertaining that idea. Here's why:

A case hit the news media this week, of a retired school teacher who had admitted molesting many children in the course of his teaching career. It's severe enough that I've seen articles in the national media, in newspapers in New York City and San Francisco, and even in a London-based news outlet. It's big news here, I guarantee you, moreso since the alleged (and apparently confessed) perpetrator's father is involved in local politics. And, further, faithful members of a local Southern Baptist Church.

I don't see any need to name names, here, to prove my point.

Here's the catch: back in 1992-1993, he was accused of this same thing. The school board held a "Termination Hearing" about it, looked into the matter, but decided there was not enough evidence to terminate his employment. Hence he was placed back in the classroom.

The local prosecutor presented the matter to a Grand Jury, who heard all the evidence from everywhere they could find it. I understand they were thorough in their job, but in the end, the Grand Jury refused to indict the teacher.

The local newspaper also reports that, in 1992, the accused was also a "30-year old youth minister" at their local Baptist church!

There are many, many details I won't go into, here, about how far-reaching the effects of this are .. and may well grow to be .. but you have the framework of the case: a teacher who was accused of molestation, whom the Grand Jury wouldn't indict and the School Board wouldn't terminate.

THE QUESTION IS: What if the SBC had already compiled a database of people convicted of, or credibly accused of, such predatory actions?

True, he was not primarily a church employee ... but I cannot imagine how a church could have used the information of the accusations to deny a position to him, without huge exposure to the SBC and to the church itself!

People have talked about this for 4 years that I know of, but now that I've bumped into a real life case, involving people I know, I've been forced to face the real issues with no hypothetical curtain behind which to hide.

Somehow, we keep thinking there ought to be a "nice" solution to all sins. Certainly forgiveness is the remedy for sin, and we know how that's attained, but as far as "good answers" for the results here, of our sin, sometimes there just aren't any.

Which further raises the specter that there may such far-reaching consequences of every sin. That every sin we commit is just as ugly, and just as damaging .. somewhere, sometime .. as the actions of the accused in this case. If that's true, then there are no "good answers" for us, either.

No wonder they call it "mercy". We surely don't deserve it.


At 3:21 AM, January 08, 2012, Blogger One Salient Oversight said...

Due to child molestation within government schools in Australia, a national "working with children" check was set up to prevent people who were convicted of child abuse or pedophilia from gaining employment in areas where they would have access to children.

As a result of child molestation problems within various Australian protestant denominations, it is now common practice to do a "working with children" check on anyone who wishes to do paid professional ministry or voluntary work. If someone wishes, for example, to volunteer in children's ministry, the church puts the person through a background check to ensure that they aren't trouble.

It seems to be working.

At 8:11 AM, January 08, 2012, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Oh, we do background checks galore here. But what would/could a church or employer (like a school system) do even if that HAD known about this?

In light of the School Board's and the Grand Jury's action, I suggest there's nothing they could do.

At 9:17 PM, January 08, 2012, Anonymous Lee said...

We had a situation here at my school this fall where we had to consult a denominational database to find out if a former pastor had gone through process to get his credentials back after a situation where he had pleaded out to lesser charges in an abuse situation about 15 years ago. We were able to find out the information we needed through a couple of calls to the district office, where the credentials are held. That's in the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The big difference in the SBC is that 1) a whole lot of churches never consult with the association, state convention, or SBC at any point when they are calling staff, and would not be likely to pay attention to a denominational data base even if one existed and 2) so many churches don't follow through with checking references or running background checks when calling staff members.

Not only does our school policy require both a federal and a state reference and criminal background check, our liability insurance requires it as well. That's where churches will eventually have to be accountable.


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