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Blind to ministers' child molestation convictions: How long does it take?
Dr. Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention 2006-08

 

When Dr. Frank Page was interviewed for the 20/20 program on "Preacher Predators," correspondent Jim Avila told him face-to-face about the fact that there were convicted child molesters whose names were still on the Southern Baptist Convention's registry of ministers.

You might think Page would have left that interview feeling chagrined at such a revelation. You might think he would have asked 20/20 for those names and then gone straight to Nashville headquarters and gotten those names removed from the SBC's website. You might think he would have insisted that someone cross-check all the list of Southern Baptist ministers against public sex offender registries.

You might even imagine that Page would have made a public apology to clergy abuse survivors and their families, who week after week, had seen the SBC continue to publicly hold forth child molesting perpetrators as being Southern Baptist ministers.

But none of that happened.

19 That's how many days it took for the SBC to get six convicted child molesters taken off their public listing of Southern Baptist ministers, even after being directly told about it.* They waited until after the 20/20 show actually aired, until after EthicsDaily ran an article printing the names of convicted perps on the SBC's registry, and until after SNAP made a news release about the SBC's continued listing of convicted child molesters as ministers. SNAP made the news release on the morning of April 18, 2007, and the SBC finally removed the names later that day.

Why did it take so long? Do they just not care? Was there not someone in that big block-long building in Nashville who could have performed the simple clerical task of removing the names of convicted child molesters from the SBC's online registry of ministers?

The reason it took so long is because they were effectively sitting back and saying "not our problem." Even after the 20/20 show aired, SBC official Augie Boto publicly justified and defended KEEPING the names of convicted perps on the SBC's ministerial registry.  (Yeah...did you get that? What planet do these guys live on?)

How can we believe kids are safe in this denomination when even the simple task of removing convicted child molesters from the SBC's website is a task that's undertaken only after extraordinarily heavy media attention is mustered? And contrary to what Boto said, the SBC apparently DID have the power to remove those names, because when the media attention became uncomfortable, they finally did it. (Of course, given that it's the SBC's own website registry, it never made much sense to think they were powerless over it, notwithstanding Boto's rote recitation of the autonomy excuse.)

How long will it take before SBC officials actually acknowledge this as having been a mistake and make a public apology to the families whose kids were molested and who then endured the salt in the wound of seeing those perpetrators continue to be held forth publicly as Southern Baptist ministers?

Why were those names even on the SBC's ministerial list at all? The SBC had access to all the same information - and more - as what 20/20 had access to. Why weren't those names removed long before 20/20 brought them to Dr. Page's attention? And what if that portion of the 20/20 interview had been left on the cutting room floor? Would those names STILL be on the SBC's registry? Is that what Page was hoping for? Is that why he didn't get the names removed until AFTER that portion of the interview was actually aired?

One of those convicted child molesting ministers had been previously named in a published article back on October 11, 2006, and the article specifically pointed out that he was still on the SBC's registry of ministers. Yet nothing was done. The name stayed on the registry of Southern Baptist ministers.

That same convicted child molester stayed on the SBC's registry of ministers even after it was again pointed out in a second published article on March 28, 2007. It's hard to imagine that no one in the SBC saw either of those published articles. Yet, nothing was done. Does the SBC remove convicted perpetrators from the registry only when there's NATIONAL media attention?

But hey....we aren't counting from the conviction dates or even from the October 11, 2006 date when news of a convicted perp on the SBC's list was previously published. We're just counting how long it took after the Southern Baptist Convention's president Frank Page was told about this to his face by a national news show, and that looks plenty awful enough. He knew, and he chose to do nothing until there was still MORE media attention.

And this is the same guy who saw fit to publicly rail against a self-help support group for child-rape victims by calling them "nothing more than opportunistic persons who are seeking...personal gain." Huh???  He seems plenty ready and willing to castigate the victims! Why doesn't he do something about the clergy-predators? Where are his priorities?

In fact, why didn't Page publicly rail against First Baptist Church of Romeoville for keeping a convicted child molester in the pulpit for 6 years, even knowing that he was a registered sex offender?

Instead of railing against the victims, why doesn't Page rail against churches like Romeoville?

 

* On April 2, 2007, the Baptist Press published Frank Page's statement that he had been interviewed by 20/20 "several days ago." So, I started counting as of March 30. I suspect, however, that Page's interview was actually a week or so sooner than that, which would mean it really took even longer.