Baptists eye sex-offender database
By Peter Smith
June 13, 2007
SAN ANTONIO -- The Southern Baptist Convention took a step yesterday that could lead to the creation of a database of pastors who have committed sexual misconduct.
The convention overwhelmingly voted without debate to ask its Executive Committee to study the feasibility of creating such a database. The committee is required to report back to next year's convention.
The database would include names of those "credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse," according to the motion approved by the convention on the first day of its two-day meeting.
The aim would be to prevent a minister who offends in one church from finding a job in another where the minister's history is unknown.
"I'm not smart enough to establish what should be done, but I'm asking them to investigate," Enid, Okla., pastor Wade Burleson, sponsor of the measure, said after the vote.
Christa Brown, an advocate for victims, called the vote "very positive."
"Southern Baptists have taken a step forward here in San Antonio today, and we hope they will build on it to make kids safer for the future," she said.
Brown is the Baptist coordinator of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group that played a major role in exposing the extent of sexual abuse among Roman Catholic clergy. It has expanded its advocacy to other denominations.
"We have no reason to believe that the scope of the problem (in the Southern Baptist Convention) is any less than what it is among Catholics," she said.
Brown said such a database is needed, saying she was abused as a child in a Southern Baptist church, that another minister knew of it -- and that it took her extensive work to discover the man she said abused her was still ministering to children in another state.
"Southern Baptists would probably like people to think the lack of data is the lack of a problem," Brown said. "Victims try to report it, but where do they report it?"
The Baptist convention wraps up today at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
The issue of sexual abuse was highlighted earlier this year with the recent revelation by the Web site EthicsDaily.com that two registered sex offenders, Richard Yates Quinn and Dale Don McKee, were living on campus at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
Seminary spokesman Lawrence Smith said that because of rules on student confidentiality, he couldn't confirm the students were registered sex offenders, but he said a Richard Yates Quinn graduated in May with a master of arts in Christian counseling and a Dale Don McKee took classes in the spring semester but is not currently registered as a student.
Quinn's name, which appeared on the Kentucky list earlier this year, is no longer on it, which could indicate that he has moved out of state.
Smith said that, beginning in the fall of 2006, the seminary has asked all applicants if they are registered sex offenders. If the answer is yes, they automatically are disqualified from admission, although he said the seminary does not check all sex-offender databases to verify negative answers.
Reporter Peter Smith can be reached at (502) 582-4469.