child molestation

Texas papers deliver more hard-hitting, must-read reporting on Southern Baptists' 'Abuse of Faith'

Texas papers deliver more hard-hitting, must-read reporting on Southern Baptists' 'Abuse of Faith'

Back in February, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News published the results of a six-month investigation into sex abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.

The “Abuse of Faith” series, which can be read online, was mammoth in size and devastating in its findings. Here at GetReligion, I characterized the project as “exceptionally important, powerhouse journalism.”

Immediately, the stories sent tremors through the nation’s largest Protestant denomination and prompted SBC President J.D. Greear to propose reforms. However, our own tmatt noted that the SBC’s legal structure would affect the fight against abuse.

Fast-forward almost two months, and it’s obvious that the papers that invested so much reporting muscle and newsprint ink into the investigation remain on the case.

The Chronicle (and I’m assuming the Express-News) published important follow-up reports over the weekend. Since I subscribe to the Houston paper, I know that one piece ran at the top of Saturday’s front page and the other at the top of Sunday’s front page.

The Saturday story concerned a Houston church dropping out of the local Baptist association and the national SBC as a result of the Texas papers reporting on its pastor’s sex abuse history.

The lede:

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'Guys, you are not my opponent,' Southern Baptist official tells reporters investigating sexual abuse

'Guys, you are not my opponent,' Southern Baptist official tells reporters investigating sexual abuse

Is the Southern Baptist Convention facing a public relations nightmare?

Some might be asking that question after the first part of a bombshell investigative project by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News was published Sunday.

The opening installment of the “Abuse of Faith” series filled almost four entire newspaper pages — meticulously describing the findings of a six-month investigation by reporters for the Chronicle and the Express-News.

The sobering details:

It's not just a recent problem: In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state.

They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions.

About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending. They were pastors. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. Deacons. Church volunteers.

Nearly 100 are still held in prisons stretching from Sacramento County, Calif., to Hillsborough County, Fla., state and federal records show. Scores of others cut deals and served no time. More than 100 are registered sex offenders. Some still work in Southern Baptist churches today.

Journalists in the two newsrooms spent more than six months reviewing thousands of pages of court, prison and police records and conducting hundreds of interviews. They built a database of former leaders in Southern Baptist churches who have been convicted of sex crimes.

So, to repeat the original question: Is the Southern Baptist Convention facing a public relations nightmare?

Not according to Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who wrote this in response to the newspaper report:

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Satanic ritual abuse back in the news, only now these claims are being met with skepticism

Satanic ritual abuse back in the news, only now these claims are being met with skepticism

Satanic ritual abuse is back in the news, but this time around the press is doing a much better job in reporting on allegations that secret covens of satanists are abusing and murdering children in America and Britain.

Beginning with the McMartin preschool case in 1984, when KABC trumpeted the news that the operators of a Manhattan Beach nursery school had ritually abused several dozen children, much of the media accepted without question fantastic claims brought by police, parents and prosecutors. But by the early 1990s when the the courts began tossing out convictions based on recovered memories, coached testimony and magical thinking, the media backed away.

In 1991 David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles examining the media’s coverage of the McMartin preschool trial, finding his own newspaper had failed in its duty to provide balanced, honest coverage.

In its analysis of the McMartin case, the New York Times wrote:

The verdict has produced a self-examination by the media, most notably a four-part series in The Los Angeles Times in which David Shaw, who covers the news media for the newspaper, asserted that his own newspaper consistently favored the prosecution and failed to give critical scrutiny to its charge.

Academic and government studies have subsequently found no truth in claims of organized groups abusing children for satanic ritual purposes. Some abusers have used these motifs to frighten their victims, but in the U.S. and Britain there is no such thing as ritual satanic abuse (SRA).

I qualify my statement by saying "the U.S. and Britain," in that religiously motivated ritual abuse does exist in Africa. Police have investigated incidents in the West of suspected ritual abuse committed by recent immigrants who may have brought their customs with them.

Two current stories in the U.S. and British press have resurrected SRA: the Pizzagate story from the 2016 presidential election campaign and abuse claims lodged against deceased British Prime Minister Edward Heath.

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