The Southern Baptist Convention’s sexual abuse problems

Some excellent longform reporting from the Chron, with more to come.

Thirty-five years later, Debbie Vasquez’s voice trembled as she described her trauma to a group of Southern Baptist leaders.

She was 14, she said, when she was first molested by her pastor in Sanger, a tiny prairie town an hour north of Dallas. It was the first of many assaults that Vasquez said destroyed her teenage years and, at 18, left her pregnant by the Southern Baptist pastor, a married man more than a dozen years older.

In June 2008, she paid her way to Indianapolis, where she and others asked leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and its 47,000 churches to track sexual predators and take action against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers. Vasquez, by then in her 40s, implored them to consider prevention policies like those adopted by faiths that include the Catholic Church.

“Listen to what God has to say,” she said, according to audio of the meeting, which she recorded. “… All that evil needs is for good to do nothing. … Please help me and others that will be hurt.”

Days later, Southern Baptist leaders rejected nearly every proposed reform.

The abusers haven’t stopped. They’ve hurt hundreds more.

In the decade since Vasquez’s appeal for help, more than 250 people who worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist churches have been charged with sex crimes, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reveals.

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.

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.

The investigation reveals that:

• At least 35 church pastors, employees and volunteers who exhibited predatory behavior were still able to find jobs at churches during the past two decades. In some cases, church leaders apparently failed to alert law enforcement about complaints or to warn other congregations about allegations of misconduct.

• Several past presidents and prominent leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention are among those criticized by victims for concealing or mishandling abuse complaints within their own churches or seminaries.

• Some registered sex offenders returned to the pulpit. Others remain there, including a Houston preacher who sexually assaulted a teenager and now is the principal officer of a Houston nonprofit that works with student organizations, federal records show. Its name: Touching the Future Today Inc.

There’s a lot more, so go read the whole thing. Along the way, it references the Paul Pressler scandal, which continues on. Here’s the index page for this series – there are two more stories coming – where you can also search their database of offenders. If there’s one lesson we can learn from the Catholic Church’s long-running scandal, it’s that no matter how much we think we know now, there will be more to come. And it can’t be emphasized enough that both the SBC and the Catholic Church have been among the biggest power players behind all of the main “morality” crusades in recent decades, most prominently restrictions on women’s reproductive freedom and LGBT equality (Paul Pressler was a big donor to the anti-HERO campaign). Never, ever forget any of that.

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13 Responses to The Southern Baptist Convention’s sexual abuse problems

  1. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    If the anti HERO folks were really about protecting kids and women, theyd be all over the SBC about this….

    CM Kubosh, we’re waiting.
    Lance Berkman, we’re waiting.
    Dan Patrick, we’re waiting.

    This should be at least as important as repealing HERO right?

    My prediction…Theyll ignore it or blame it on Drag Queen Story Time.

  2. Paul Kubosh says:

    I know you guys take great pleasure in stories like at this. Look in the mirror and see the plank in your eye. You guys serve a religion also it just doesn’t contain a Diety in your worship.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    If there is verifiable proof that these church leaders abused kids, then they ought to get prosecuted, if possible, and most definitely run out of the church if prosecution isn’t an option. If there was abuse and leaders covered it up, they should be run off, too. IF.

    The thing is, we’d better be damned sure we aren’t sinking innocent people. We saw with the Kavanaugh debacle how women (and their lawyers) will lie for ideology, will lie for money, and will lie for attention. We’re seeing the same thing in Virginia. The Lt. Gov. hasn’t been proved to be guilty of anything more than somehow drawing the ire of Northam. I would not be surprised if we find out some payola took place to put the two women up to their stories about Fairfax. Of course, he could have raped those women, that’s a possibility, too, but it sure seems suspect that the story surfaces 15 years later, and so ever timely to cover Northam’s indiscretion.

  4. Manny says:

    Paul that is nonsense to assume that if one does not believe like a “Christian” one does not believe in a deity. Having stated that I can’t seem to shake a thought that a brilliant Holocaust survivor wrote, “I don’t believe in God, the question is why do so many people believe in a God”.

    Tom is correct, those persons he mentioned should be just as concerned if not more so because the list of victims is much greater than any assaults by transgenders on women in bathrooms.

    I must state that I opposed HERO. I do not believe that if a person looks like a man they should be allowed in showers with women and girls. Bathrooms all have stalls, I think as I don’t go into women’s bathrooms.

  5. Manny says:

    Paul, but you do believe as this Republican don’t you? Same logical argument you made;-)

  6. C.L. says:

    @Bill… “If there is verifiable proof that these church leaders abused kids, then they ought to get prosecuted…” ???

    IF there is verifiable proof ? Me thinks you didn’t read the Chron report. “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.”

    Was on a grand jury here in Houston years ago, HC Dist. Criminal Court. One of the many cases we heard was a sexual abuse claim made by someone against someone employed by a very large megachurch over on 59…

  7. Paul Kubosh says:


    I am not clicking your link. Enjoy yourself as you relish in this misery.

  8. Jules says:

    Paul I don’t get your point here. Are you defending these men because they say they believe in God? They are predators in a system that allows them to be. Such a law and order guy until it comes to church leaders raping children, some as young as 3 years old. Then it is all about other people’s reactions, not the fact that Southern Baptists refuse to do anything about the predators in their own church. Planks in eyes indeed.

  9. brad says:


    Please don’t get in the way of Bill’s dissembling with highlighting the inconvenient pesky facts from the article.

  10. Jules says:

    Paul, relish in this misery? Wow. What a terrible reaction to this sickening abuse. Southern Baptists are too busy thinking that others enjoy the exposition of their sickening behavior to change. Oh, yes, raping children and teenagers is bad, but look over there at someone relishing the publication of our evil ways, they are truly the evil ones.

  11. Paul Kubosh says:


    I am not taking up for anyone. I knew you guys would get all giddy about this article.

  12. Bill Daniels says:


    I didn’t intentionally not comment on those convicted, I just thought that portion stood on its own, without a comment from me. They were tried, found guilty, and punished, which I obviously support. The question was, what about the current allegations. That’s why I said, IF the current crop is guilty, they ought to be punished.

    @ Brad:

    What do you think I am trying to ignore or obfuscate? I’m happy those already found guilty have been punished. If people in churches sexually assault minors, of course I want them punished….hard. I’d just like there to be proof before we move straight to punishment…..just like with Fairfax in Virginia.

    You seem to be promoting “ready, fire, aim!” You might have a future as a HPD home invasion planner.

  13. Jules says:

    Paul, you basically called the systemic abuse of hundreds of children a mote in the eye of the Southern Baptists.

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