“I am a firm believer that transparency goes hand in hand with collective intelligence.” Rana el Kaliouby.
I bet few Amicus briefs have caused such an uproar. I have read enough over the last few days to agree that the SBC leadership is terribly concerned about protecting the “institution,” which they claim hardly exists (“We are just a collection of autonomous churches,” right?) This is a game that has gone on long enough, but my guess is the faithful will keep throwing their money into the coffers to be spent by the boys on all kinds of things about which the leadership will never speak.
Start at the beginning. What happened?
Christianity Today posted Abuse Survivors ‘Disgusted’ by Southern Baptist Court Brief. Carefully read the last sentence.
Earlier this week, the Louisville Courier Journal reported that lawyers for the Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—the denomination’s flagship seminary in Louisville—and Lifeway had filed the amicus brief earlier this year in a case brought by abuse survivor Samantha Killary.
Killary was abused for years by her adoptive father, a Louisville police officer, the Courier Journalreported. She has sued two police officers who allegedly knew about the abuse and did nothing to prevent or report it, as well as Louisville’s city government, which employed them. Her suit was initially dismissed but was later reinstated after Kentucky legislators passed legislation that changed the statute of limitations for filing abuse claims.
That legislation also allowed survivors to sue third parties, “such as police, government units or religious organizations that violated their duties to children,” according to the Courier Journal. Kentucky’s Supreme Court is now trying to decide whether third parties can be sued in cases of past abuse under the new law, known as KRS § 413 249.
Now, who do you think might be concerned about third parties getting sued? In other words, not only the perp but some institutions? You got it-The SBC.
Why is the SBC leadership so concerned about a Kentucky law? Self-interest, perhaps?
The Roys Report posted Chaos Erupts Over SBC Legal Filing in Louisville Abuse Lawsuit, which gives us an idea of the answer to the above question.
A number of states, including New York and Maryland, have lifted or amended states of limitations for filing civil lawsuits in cases of abuse. That has led some Catholic dioceses to declare bankruptcy in the face of abuse lawsuits.
The brief filed by lawyers for the Executive Committee, Southern seminary and Lifeway argues that the Kentucky law should not apply retroactively to third parties. While those entities have no ties to the Killary case, they are being sued in a different case of abuse.
Further information is found in The duplicity of an SBC amicus brief written by Christa Brown, Dave Clohessy, and Dave Pittman for Baptist News Global.
The reason the SBC filed this hostile-to-survivors amicus brief (once again, in a case in which they aren’t even a party) is because of another pending case — the lawsuit of Hannah Kate Williams against the SBC — and the possibility of more future cases. They referenced Hannah Kate’s lawsuit in their brief, stating they are “non-perpetrator third parties who were allegedly made aware of the abuse and violated common law duties in responding to it.”
Read that line again: “non-perpetrator third parties who were allegedly made aware of the abuse and violated common law duties in responding to it.”
Think about what this means. The SBC is so determined to protect itself against liability that it’s willing to throw all child sex abuse survivors under the bus, even those with cases against otherinstitutions. It’s willing to stand on the mere passage of time as a tactic to evade institutional responsibility, without regard for the merits or specifics of the case.
Protecting their butts…Lawyers will lawyer and will do whatever their payee wants them to do. Therefore, I blame the ones involved in this mess: Al Mohler and SBTS, Lifeway, and the officers of the Executive Committee, who claim they knew nothing, saw nothing, etc.
Needless to say, everyone except the lawyers is upset
- Here is SBC Sexual Abuse Survivors Joint Statement 2023, found at SBC Voices. This was written by Megan Lively, Jules Woodson, and Tiffany Thigpen.
As survivors who have chosen to continue in a role actively engaged with members of the EC, ARITF, and others within the SBC, with the goal of reform, we are sickened and saddened to be burned yet again by the actions of the SBC against survivors. We are releasing this joint statement to stand against the continued measures of destruction chosen by those in leadership to actively detonate any and all measures of justice that are rightfully ours as victims of abuse.
We understand from our own inquiry that not all parties within the SBC, EC or the 47,000 or so churches it represents, are aware of this drastic stance that certain members of SBC and the SBC legal team took back in April on behalf of the Executive Committee, Lifeway and SBTS. This joint statement is to alert all to the dastardly deeds of these and to the red flag of the monies being spent on legal fees to take such action as this Amicus Brief and the Oral arguments now being heard. To absolutely stab survivors in the back. There are no mincing of words here. No holding back. This is disgusting.
- The Baptist Press posted EC officers, ARITF release statements on Kentucky amicus brief.
The EC officers portion wants to put this into context and clarification. I always worry when I hear these terms. It means, “We gonna ‘splain this to you in the hopes of getting you to shut up.” They claim they really care about the sex abuse in the SBC and still love all the victims, but this is a discrete issue which means you dolts might not be able to understand it. Here is the full response.
The amicus brief concerned “a discrete legal issue” that directly impacts the Executive Committee and the SBC’s “legal and fiduciary interests,” EC officers said.
At issue are amendments made to Kentucky law by the state legislature in 2021 and whether lawmakers’ intention was to apply a retroactive extension of the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims to non-offender third parties, including organizations.
- Some EC members claim they knew nothing about this in SBC Executive Committee members surprised to learn they filed an amicus brief against a sexual abuse survivor in Kentucky. So, just who is running this show?
Mississippi Baptist pastor Adam Wyatt, a member of the Executive Committee, tweeted: “We had no working knowledge of this as a board. Poor excuse, I know. But it’s true.”
In a separate tweet he said: “I continue to grow very tired of seeing people speak on my behalf without ever being consulted. Today was the first time that I ever heard of an amicus brief being filed on behalf of the @SBCExecComm.”
From Christa Brown
This @SBCExecComm statement is a carefully calibrated mix of bullsh*t, horseshi*t & chickensh*t. It is craven, cowardly & despicable.I will NEVER allow my voice or personhood to lend even an ounce of legitimacy to their grotesquely illegitimate “reform efforts.” #ThisistheSBC pic.twitter.com/6YXMxWgVNV
- Finally, the Abuse Implementation Task Force had this to say: A Statement from the ARITF. They ain’t happy.
The Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) underscores our unwavering commitment to supporting survivors of sexual abuse in pursuit of healing and justice. Along with many others, we are now aware of concerns about the legal actions of various entities connected to the Southern Baptist Convention. We also understand the deep impact that these actions have had on the survivor community. As a task force with a limited mission, we had no knowledge or involvement in the legal issues surrounding various entities nor gave input in these matters.
The EC Officers are trying to figure out how to make this go away, but read the statement. It appears nothing will change since we Baptist types always disagree.
Once again, from Baptist Press:
A Zoom call with trustees and legal counsel will take place Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. Central, he said.
“The Executive Committee remains committed to engaging with survivors and working toward eradicating sexual abuse from Southern Baptist churches, institutions, and entities, and we remain committed to bringing about meaningful abuse reform across the SBC,” Robertson said.
Today’s statement reiterated that goal in addition to responsibilities to the Executive Committee.
“The SBC Executive Committee must continue to defend itself, and its interests, within the judicial system as appropriate. These goals (eradicating sexual abuse and legally defending itself) are not mutually exclusive,” it read.
Disagreements are bound to happen among Southern Baptists, it added, but “tension and disagreement on one matter are not reasons to abandon the broader effort to eradicate sexual abuse from all Southern Baptist churches.”
Al Mohler and Lifeway ain’t talking.
SBTS was behind this thing. Kentucky Today posted SBC entities take fire over Kentucky amicus brief. Al Mohler wants you to talk to the lawyers cause he ain’t talking.
Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler issued the following:
“As is often the case in questions of law, significant constitutional and legal questions arise and require arguments to be made before the courts,” he said. “In such cases we must refer all questions to legal counsel. We respect the rule of law and must work through the process with legal representation, who must speak for us in this case.”
The report said Lifeway didn’t respond.
The SBC President weighed in today: He signed off on it, but he didn’t read it carefully. 🙂
Baptist News Global posted SBC president apologizes for signing off on amicus brief.
- “I should have read it more carefully.”
I did not give this decision to file this brief the level of consideration that it deserved,” Bart Barber said i
- “Maybe I wasn’t allowed to sign it after all.”
he now questions whether he had the right to sign off on such an important matter because ad interim authority — between the two-day annual meetings of the SBC — is delegated to the Executive Committee, not the convention president.
- “I won’t do it again,”
“Our future decisions likewise lie with the SBC Executive Committee. I hope to do a better job of using my voice to influence those decisions going forward.”
- “They only gave me three hours to review it.”
he received an email from the SBC’s legal team telling him about the brief and “recommending that we join it.” He was given a little more than three hours to decide, while also engaged in the orientation meetings.
“The whole thing was an email conversation, and a brief one at that. I became aware that the SBC Executive Committee was joining the brief. I approved our joining the brief. I hadn’t heard anything about it or thought anything about it since then until last Wednesday.”
Barber said he understands many people are upset with him, including many friends. He added: “I don’t have words to express how I feel about that.”
We are reminded that the DOJ is investigating the SBC.
He was in Nashville for an orientation of the new members of the SBC Executive Committee. He also had called the Great Commission Council — the heads of all SBC entities — together “to reveal to them something they did not yet know — that the Department of Justice had opened an investigation of the Southern Baptist Convention and that we were determined to cooperate fully.”
That investigation reportedly is about mishandling of sexual abuse claims, although the Justice Department has declined to specify the scope or acknowledge if the investigation is happening.
Is silence golden?
Finally, the SBC leadership crowd should have said something before joining this fight. The SBC seems to wait until they are forced to speak. Look at the NAMB. Try to get any information from this group, which appears to be a depository for tired-out pastors who like to make lots of money.
I am suspicious that the SBC leaders knew exactly what would happen when this came out. Little can be done at this juncture, so they do not plan to discuss it. Al Mohler sure isn’t, and he played the “I care about sex abuse victims” card so well. Marc Wingfield at Baptist News Global wrote Why is Lifeway silent on sexual abuse amicus brief?
Here’s a sure way to know Southern Baptist institutions and some Baptist universities don’t think they’re accountable to anyone outside their inner circle: The perpetual refusal to comment on, or even acknowledge, questions from media.
…Now, it appears Lifeway Christian Resources has joined the “no comment” crowd. Despite a week of intense controversy over an amicus brief filed against a sexual abuse survivor in Kentucky, allegedly orchestrated by Lifeway and its attorneys, there has been no explanation given, no comment offered, no public statement.
…“No comment” is one of the worst public relations strategies ever invented. People who actually work in media relations will testify to this. One of the oldest truths of public relations and of crisis communications is this: You are always better off telling your own story first rather than allowing someone else to frame it for you.
When you sit silently and let critics frame the case against you, you’re always one step behind and you’re always reacting rather than acting. Even if you think you’re winning.