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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "DAVID CRARY"

Sex abuse crisis tops agenda as Southern Baptists convene

The Southern Baptist Convention gathers for its annual national meeting Tuesday with one sobering topic — sex abuse by clergy and staff — overshadowing all others.

Inside the meeting hall in Birmingham, Alabama, delegates representing the nation’s largest Protestant denomination will likely vote on establishing criteria for expelling churches that mishandle or cover up abuse allegations. They also may vote to establish a new committee which would review how member churches handle claims of abuse.

Outside the convention center, abuse survivors and other activists plan a protest rally Tuesday evening, demanding that the SBC move faster to require sex-abuse training for all pastors, staff and volunteers, and to create a database of credibly accused abusers that could be shared among its more than 47,000 churches. They will also be urging the church, which espouses all-male leadership, to be more respectful of women’s roles — a volatile topic that’s sparked online debate over whether women should preach to men.

Sex abuse already was a high-profile issue at the 2018 national meeting in Dallas, following revelations about several sexual misconduct cases. Soon after his election as SBC president at that meeting, the Rev. J.D. Greear formed an advisory group to draft recommendations on how to confront the problem.

However, pressure on the church has intensified in recent months, due in part to articles by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News asserting that hundreds of Southern Baptist clergy and staff have been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, including dozens who returned to church duties, while leaving more than 700 victims with little in the way of justice or apologies.

“For years, there were people who assumed abuse was simply a Roman Catholic problem,” said the Rev. Russell Moore, who heads the SBC’s public policy arm. “I see that mentality dissipating. There seems to be a growing sense of vulnerability and a willingness to address this crisis.”

As evidence of that willingness, Greear’s advisory group issued a detailed report Saturday about sexual abuse within the SBC.

It contained several first-person stories by sexual abuse survivors, and acknowledged a variety of failures in how the SBC has responded to abuse — including inadequate training of staff, failure to believe and support victims, failure to report abuse to law enforcement, and recommending suspected perpetrators to new employment.

The scandals have created a major distraction at a time when recent political events have thrilled many Southern Baptist members. The convention is happening in the state that passed the strictest abortion ban in the country, an issue near and dear to many Baptists. And President Donald Trump has advanced an agenda that has pleased many conservative Christians, including a remade U.S. Supreme Court.

With the abuse scandal spreading, Greear’s study committee issued 10 recommendations, and some action has been taken.

For example, a nine-member team has been developing a training curriculum to be used by churches and seminaries to improve responses to abuse. The team includes a psychologist, a former prosecutor, a detective, and attorney and abuse survivor Rachael Denhollander, the first women to go public with charges against sports doctor Larry Nassar ahead of the prosecution that led to a lengthy prison sentence.

The study group also is considering new requirements for background checks of church leaders. And it is assessing options for a database listing abusers, though Baptist leaders say that process has been difficult because of legal issues.

Greear, in an email to The Associated Press, said he was “thankful for the light” that the articles by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News “shined on a dark area of our Convention.”

“Only when sin is exposed to the light of truth, true repentance, healing, and change can begin,” he wrote.

Activist and writer Christa Brown, who says she was abused by a Southern Baptist minister as a child, has been advocating for a database since 2006, and is frustrated by the slow pace. She says any eventual database might be ineffective unless it is run by outsiders, not by SBC officials.

“It has to be independently administered to provide survivors with a safe place to report,” she said.

The study group’s No. 1 recommendation is for Southern Baptists to “enter a season of sorrow and repentance.”

Ahead of next week’s meeting, there’s been a surge of debate — much of it waged on social media — related to the Southern Baptist Convention’s doctrine of “complementarianism” that calls for male leadership in the home and the church.

Particularly contentious is a widely observed prohibition on women preaching in Southern Baptist churches. Those recently defying that policy include Beth Moore, a prominent author and evangelist who runs a Houston-based ministry for women.

Beth Moore hinted on Twitter in April that she was preaching a Mother’s Day sermon at a Southern Baptist church, which drew rebukes from some SBC theologians.

“For a woman to teach and preach to adult men is to defy God’s Word,” wrote Owen Strachan, a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Elders must not allow such a sinful practice.”

Beth Moore responded with a series of tweets on May 11, questioning the motives of SBC leaders seeking to limit women’s roles.

“All these years I’d given the benefit of the doubt that these men were the way they were because they were trying to be obedient to Scripture,” Beth Moore tweeted.

“Then I realized it was not over Scripture at all. It was over sin…. It was over misogyny. Sexism. It was about arrogance. About protecting systems. It involved covering abuses & misuses of power.”

Several male Southern Baptist pastors have aligned themselves with activist women in decrying sex abuse and limits on women’s leadership roles.

Among them is Wade Burleson, a pastor from Enid, Oklahoma, who contends that gifted women should be encouraged to serve in the ministry on an equal basis with men.

“The sooner we learn that men can learn spiritual truths from women, the better off we are,” Burleson wrote on his blog, adding that he would welcome Beth Moore preaching at his church.

The Rev. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says SBC leaders will not soften the prohibition on women serving as pastors.

“When it comes to questions short of that, there’s going to be a robust Southern Baptist discussion,” he said.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-5085f6af1ab34a51b4d4b3ba0c863a1a Sex abuse crisis tops agenda as Southern Baptists convene fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/crime fnc/us fnc ed600fb4-73fe-5202-a6ab-b870cdbfdfdd DAVID CRARY Associated Press article  Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-5085f6af1ab34a51b4d4b3ba0c863a1a Sex abuse crisis tops agenda as Southern Baptists convene fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/crime fnc/us fnc ed600fb4-73fe-5202-a6ab-b870cdbfdfdd DAVID CRARY Associated Press article

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Boy Scouts could be hit with more sex abuse claims

Westlake Legal Group boy-scouts-could-be-hit-with-more-sex-abuse-claims Boy Scouts could be hit with more sex abuse claims fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/crime fnc/us fnc deec43e8-2f07-5e37-be41-4736b4244933 DAVID CRARY Associated Press article

The lawyers’ ads on the internet aggressively seeking clients to file sexual abuse lawsuits give a taste of what lies ahead this year for the Boy Scouts of America: potentially the most fateful chapter in its 109-year history.

Sexual abuse settlements have already strained the Boy Scouts’ finances to the point where the organization is exploring “all available options,” including Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But now the financial threats have intensified.

The reason: States have been moving in recent months to adjust their statute-of-limitations laws so that victims of long-ago sexual abuse can sue for damages. New York state has passed a law that will allow such lawsuits starting in August. A similar bill in New Jersey has reached the governor’s desk. Bills also are pending in Pennsylvania and California.

In New York and elsewhere, lawyers are hard at work recruiting clients to sue the Boy Scouts, alleging they were molested as youths by scoutmasters or other volunteers.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers “recognize that this is a very unique and lucrative opportunity,” said attorney Karen Bitar, who formerly handled sex-crime cases as a prosecutor in Brooklyn before going into private practice.

Attorney Tim Kosnoff, a veteran of major sexual abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church, said Tuesday that he and his team have signed up 186 clients from dozens of states in just the past few weeks who want to be part of litigation against the Boy Scouts. Kosnoff said 166 of them identified alleged abusers who have not been named in any of the Boy Scout files made public in past years.

Boy Scouts spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said the organization continues to evaluate its financial situation, and she defended its current abuse-prevention policies. The organization serves more than 2.2 million youths.

A bankruptcy by the Boy Scouts could be unprecedented in its complexity, potentially involving plaintiffs in virtually every state, according to several lawyers. It would be national in scope, unlike the various Catholic Church bankruptcy cases in the U.S., which have unfolded diocese by diocese.

“A Boy Scout bankruptcy would be bigger in scale than any other sex abuse bankruptcy,” said Seattle-based attorney Mike Pfau, whose firm is representing more than 300 victims in New York state.

Jeffrey Schwartz, a New York-based bankruptcy expert with the firm McKool Smith, said the Boy Scouts don’t have a particularly large flow of cash and might be forced to sell off property in bankruptcy. The Boy Scouts have extensive land holdings, including camping and hiking terrain.

“They’ll play for time,” Schwartz said. “If their defense costs and settlement costs are greater than their membership fees, it could be a death spiral.”

However, Dallas-based trial attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel, part of a team representing numerous sex abuse survivors, said bankruptcy might benefit the Boy Scouts and reduce any payouts to plaintiffs.

“It can be a tool that these institutions use to shield assets and avoid having to reveal some information,” she said. “In many ways, it’s a disservice to victims.”

Illustrating the depth of its problems, the Boy Scouts filed lawsuits last year against six of its own insurers, saying they have improperly refused to cover some of the sex abuse liabilities incurred by the organization. The insurers say the coverage obligation is voided because the Boy Scouts failed to take effective preventive measures such as warning parents that scouts might be abused. The suits are still pending.

The intensifying pressures on the Boy Scouts coincide with the mounting threats to the U.S. Catholic Church in regard to its own long-running sex abuse scandal. Catholic bishops will be meeting in Baltimore in June to discuss the next steps.

Both the church and the Boy Scouts are iconic, historically well-respected institutions now known as having been magnets for pedophiles trying to exploit the trust of boys and their parents.

“When you cloak people in badges of respect, you create the perfect opportunity for bad people to get access to children,” said Chris Hurley, whose Chicago law firm is representing 11 former scouts in sex abuse trials scheduled on a monthly basis this year.

Another common denominator for the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts: Both kept voluminous secret files with names of suspected abusers, yet balked at sharing the information with the public.

Since the 1920s, the Boy Scouts have been compiling “ineligible files,” which list adult volunteers considered to pose a risk of child molestation. About 5,000 of these files have been made public as a result of court action; others remain confidential.

Delimarkos said when any BSA volunteer is added to the database for suspected abuse, “they are reported to law enforcement, removed entirely from any Scouting program and prohibited from re-joining anywhere.”

Minnesota-based attorney Jeff Anderson, who had led many lawsuits against the Catholic Church, released a court deposition in New York on Tuesday in which an expert hired by the Boy Scouts said she tallied 7,819 individuals in the “ineligible files” as of January, as well as 12,254 victims.

Anderson expressed hope that litigation triggered by New York’s new Child Victims Act would increase pressure on the Boy Scouts to make public more of the still-confidential files.

Some of the files were ordered released after a 2010 sexual abuse case in Portland, Oregon, that led to a nearly $20 million judgment against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a man molested by a Scout leader in the 1980s.

Paul Mones, the plaintiff’s lawyer in that case, said there are no overall figures on Boy Scout abuse settlements because the details are kept confidential.

Both the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church say they now have policies in place to sharply curtail abuse that abounded in past decades. In the Boy Scouts ‘ case, the steps included requiring criminal background checks for all staff and volunteers, and requiring two or more adult leaders be present with youth at all times during scouting activities.

___

This story has been corrected to show that Effie Delimarkos is a spokeswoman, not a spokesman.

Westlake Legal Group b8900dec-ContentBroker_contentid-596242835298405bb219acc26524437a Boy Scouts could be hit with more sex abuse claims fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/crime fnc/us fnc deec43e8-2f07-5e37-be41-4736b4244933 DAVID CRARY Associated Press article  Westlake Legal Group b8900dec-ContentBroker_contentid-596242835298405bb219acc26524437a Boy Scouts could be hit with more sex abuse claims fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/crime fnc/us fnc deec43e8-2f07-5e37-be41-4736b4244933 DAVID CRARY Associated Press article

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Looming wave of sex-abuse cases poses threat to Boy Scouts

Westlake Legal Group looming-wave-of-sex-abuse-cases-poses-threat-to-boy-scouts Looming wave of sex-abuse cases poses threat to Boy Scouts fox-news/us/crime fnc/us fnc deec43e8-2f07-5e37-be41-4736b4244933 DAVID CRARY Associated Press article

Lawyers across the U.S. are recruiting clients for a potentially crippling new wave of sexual abuse lawsuits against the Boy Scouts.

Past payouts have already seriously strained the organization’s finances, and it hasn’t ruled out filing for bankruptcy. But now the threat is increasing because a number of states are moving to create a new legal window so that victims of long-ago abuse can sue.

A bankruptcy filing by the Boy Scouts could be epic in its scope and complexity and could prove crippling to the organization. It could also result in lower payouts to people who were molested as youngsters by scoutmasters or other volunteers.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-596242835298405bb219acc26524437a Looming wave of sex-abuse cases poses threat to Boy Scouts fox-news/us/crime fnc/us fnc deec43e8-2f07-5e37-be41-4736b4244933 DAVID CRARY Associated Press article  Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-596242835298405bb219acc26524437a Looming wave of sex-abuse cases poses threat to Boy Scouts fox-news/us/crime fnc/us fnc deec43e8-2f07-5e37-be41-4736b4244933 DAVID CRARY Associated Press article

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United Methodists edge toward breakup over LGBT policies

Westlake Legal Group united-methodists-edge-toward-breakup-over-lgbt-policies United Methodists edge toward breakup over LGBT policies fox-news/us/religion/christianity fnc/us fnc DAVID CRARY Associated Press article 34f45fec-6204-5e4b-a9e8-b2cc85e16432

The United Methodist Church may break up over differences on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT pastors.

The differences have been simmering for years, and came to a head in late February at a crucial conference in St. Louis. At the meeting, delegates approved a plan strengthening bans on LGBT-inclusive practices.

Many believe the vote will prompt an exodus from the church by liberal congregations that are already expressing their dissatisfaction over the move.

Some churches have raised rainbow flags in a show of LGBT solidarity. Some pastors have vowed to defy the strict rules and continue to allow gay weddings in Methodist churches. Churches are withholding dues payments to the main office in protest.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-9d80715da9a345ec80819a9fc32d48c8 United Methodists edge toward breakup over LGBT policies fox-news/us/religion/christianity fnc/us fnc DAVID CRARY Associated Press article 34f45fec-6204-5e4b-a9e8-b2cc85e16432  Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-9d80715da9a345ec80819a9fc32d48c8 United Methodists edge toward breakup over LGBT policies fox-news/us/religion/christianity fnc/us fnc DAVID CRARY Associated Press article 34f45fec-6204-5e4b-a9e8-b2cc85e16432

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