Abuse survivors, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee members, and the SBC’s abuse reform task force have strongly criticized a Kentucky court filing by SBC entities.
The filing aimed to limit their liability for sexual abuse claims and argued against retroactively applying a Kentucky law that changed the statute of limitations for civil claims related to abuse. Survivors and some SBC leaders expressed their dismay at the filing, considering it a betrayal of abuse survivors and a failure to support abuse reform efforts within the SBC.
This controversy is the latest challenge for the SBC, which has faced legal and leadership issues in the aftermath of a sexual abuse crisis. The legal dispute centers around whether third parties can be sued under the new Kentucky law that allows survivors to sue entities such as churches or police for abuse claims.
Christianity Today reports:
A brief filed earlier this year by lawyers for the Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Lifeway, an SBC publisher, argues that a Kentucky law that changed the statute of limitations for making civil claims over abuse—and allowing survivors to sue third parties such as churches or police—should not be applied retroactively.
“There are no mincing of words here. No holding back. This is disgusting,” abuse survivors Megan Lively, Jules Woodson, and Tiffany Thigpen said in a statement released Wednesday.
A group of Southern Baptist leaders working on abuse reforms also criticized the brief, saying the filing was “a choice to stand against every survivor in Kentucky.”
“This brief, and the policy arguments made in it, were made without our knowledge and without our approval,” the statement read. “Moreover, they do not represent our values and positions.”
Members of the Executive Committee, including Oklahoma pastor Mike Keahbone, expressed dismay at the brief, saying he and other members of the committee were blindsided by it. Keahbone, a member of a task force implementing abuse reforms in the SBC, said the brief undermined survivors such as Thigpen, Woodson, and Lively, who have supported the reforms.
“We’ve had survivors that have been faithful to give us a chance,” he told Religion News Service in a phone interview. “And we hurt them badly.”
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