Group wants names of accused clergy published


Star-Telegram Staff Writer

March 19, 2008

A national support group for people molested by clergy is urging leaders of the Baptist General Convention of Texas to disclose the names of ministers reported for child molesting to protect potential victims. But convention leaders, who received the written demand Tuesday morning, said they will not publish unsubstantiated claims.

The names of those convicted are already posted on the convention's Web site, said Emily Prevost, the convention's associate coordinator of leader research.

And information on individuals who have confessed to abuse or been reported by a church for sexual misconduct is available to people holding "duly elected church offices," such as pastors, deacons and members of personnel committees, Prevost said.

A proposed legacy

The support group, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, asked Jan Daehnert, the convention's interim executive director, to release names before leaving office at the end of the month.

"His legacy will either be one of courage and compassion or of secrecy and recklessness," said Christa Brown of Austin, SNAP's Baptist outreach director, in a news release.

SNAP, which has offices in Chicago and St. Louis, says convention officials try to justify the file's secrecy by saying it protects victims' identities. Those identities can easily be preserved while still disclosing the names of the accused clergy, according to the letter sent from three SNAP officials.

Brown said the name of the clergyman who abused her was in the file, but "he was still able to continue as a children's minister in Florida."

The demands

SNAP wants the names of ministers in the file to be posted on the convention's Web site and in The Baptist Standard newspaper. The group also wants the accused clergy's congregations warned, and asks convention officials to turn the files over to secular authorities and to review victims' claims, not merely reports from church officials.

Prevost said the convention, which has 5,500 affiliated churches, is "very committed to protecting not just children but members."

She said the convention will reply to SNAP's letter.

"We don't just want to publish [the names] on the Internet," she said. "We don't have a way to substantiate. We don't even always have a victim's name. The vast majority don't involve criminal acts."
TERRY LEE GOODRICH, 817-685-3812