Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

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Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby Gene Scarborough » Fri May 18, 2012 8:03 am

First case of liability toward a State Convention:

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-05-17/news/os-baptist-sex-abuse-verdict-20120517_1_triangle-community-church-douglas-w-myers-church-planter

TAVARES — A Lake County jury today found the Florida Baptist Convention liable for a former pastor who sexually abused a 13-year-old boy in Eustis.

Jurors decided that the convention didn't do enough to investigate the background of Douglas W. Myers, who started two churches in Lake County after receiving funds and training from the convention.


This is the first case I have seen which goes all the way to the Baptist State Convention!

Is this the beginning of the real need to quit hiding in the sand over lax vetting of Baptist ministers?
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Re: Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby Lamar Wadsworth » Fri May 18, 2012 9:02 am

To respond directly to the question Gene poses, my answer would be "probably, at least in some cases." From my reading of the article, the jury seems to have viewed this case as somewhat different because the sexual predator in question was brought in and trained as a church planter by and received funding and/or endorsement from the state convention, therefore the jury saw a greater duty on the part of the state convention to investigate this guy's background. You can be sure he would have been screened out if he'd ever shown the slightest support for CBF or if he had ever supported the ordination of women or had women deacons in one of his previous churches. I think the jury would have bought the argument of local church autonomy if this had been just another pastor of a local church--I don't think they would have found ascending liability to the association and/or state convention if it had been a case of a local church's pastor search committee failing to do due diligence. But the convention trained and endorsed this guy as a church planter, which is reason enough for me to think the jury was right to say "this is a horse of a different color." If you give a guy your endorsement, you are in effect saying to the public, "Your children are safe with this guy."
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Re: Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby Gene Scarborough » Fri May 18, 2012 4:43 pm

This case sets a precedent that lawyers into the future will not ignore.

I also think the "fake excuse" of church autonomy could disappear as a cover. We all know that every ordained clergyman got his ordination after some sort of vetting process. We, further, know that too much corruption is flowing beneath the pretense of super-righteous-fundamentalism.

Up at old Southeastern in old Wake Forest there have been 3 cases, to my knowledge, where pedophiles have been caught and prosecuted among the student body.

Law enforcement agencies are watching more closely. Detectives are prowling the Internet to pretend to be potential victims and catch them. When they turn up in churches and in theological schools, more lawsuits will follow. The day of "it's not my fault" are ending and Baptists best BEWARE!
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Re: Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby William Thornton » Fri May 18, 2012 6:27 pm

This is significant but unsettled. The jury also found that the man was not an employee of the state convention, that the convention ran background checks and other due diligence on the man but did not chase all the references and previous places of service. I don't think that it was disputed that the man was not supervised or directed by the state convention.

I'd speculate that an appeal will overturn this. We certainly haven't heard the last of it and, as I wrote this am on my blog, SBC entity lawyer types are having some anxiety over this.
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Re: Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby Ed Pettibone » Fri May 18, 2012 8:21 pm

William Thornton wrote:This is significant but unsettled. The jury also found that the man was not an employee of the state convention, that the convention ran background checks and other due diligence on the man but did not chase all the references and previous places of service. I don't think that it was disputed that the man was not supervised or directed by the state convention.

I'd speculate that an appeal will overturn this. We certainly haven't heard the last of it and, as I wrote this am on my blog, SBC entity lawyer types are having some anxiety over this.


Ed: I am glad to see this come up. William where do you come up with that "due diligence" idea? The article says nothing of due diligence. what it says is "Before Myers started his church work in Florida, the convention ran a background search on him, including a search of criminal cases, motor-vehicle violations and a credit check, according to testimony. However, none of the convention officials had checked his references or called the prior churches, according to testimony." I feel that at a minimum, due diligence would require those responsible for setting this fellow up in Florida would have included checking his references. I would like to know more about the background search the Fla State convention ran. My guess would be is that they simply filed a request for a background with the local law enforcement, and paid the set fee. In these forums I have attempted in the past to warn churches and church related entities that, such a check is generally too localized. I have had to get such clearances when applying for work in Florida and in Kentucky. And what you usually get back is a statement that says something to the effect that "The official records of this jurisdiction show no criminal charges against the Individual named herein and with the SS# ---_--_ ----. Another space on my personal report in Florda, stated that on "Date; 4-xx-1986 the applicant was issued a ticket in the city of Hollywod, ________ county Fla for driving with no tail light on the drivers side of his vehicle. A fine was paid. The applicant has previously held drivers licenses in Ohio and Indiana. If pertinent an employer may request information from the DMV of those states."

In my opinion such background checks are in adequate.
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Re: Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby Jerry_B » Fri May 18, 2012 9:46 pm

Perhaps if the tried and true of method of churches starting churches was adhered to this fella could have been vetted. Only speculation there, no way of knowing. But this shows some of the dangers of conventions starting churches instead of local churches. It's hard for me to imagine that if I was the pastor of the supporting church that I wouldn't have picked up the phone to find out what this guy was up to before coming to Florida to start a church. This convention starting churches thing is proving to be a troublesome in traditional Baptist churches. It has upset many in the NAMB community, burned the BGCT where it appears that had they listened to local pastors problems could have been avoided or at least discovered and handled sooner. Now Florida, in precedent setting fashion, has been found liable for not providing proper supervision to a church start.

Not to say that denominations/ conventions can't provide the proper supervision, but the loosey-goosey approach traditional in Baptist circles clearly has wide gapping holes that for whatever reason Baptists have been reluctant to close. Maybe this wake up call will gets everyones attention. The continued liaise faire attitude is a poor witness to local church autonomy, black eye for the entire Kingdom of God and bringing unknown harm to the innocents in our communities.
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Re: Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby Gene Scarborough » Sat May 19, 2012 8:07 am

Would anyone still say we don't need to deal with this now?

Why have we waited until money gets on the line as did the Roman Catholics?
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Re: Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby Haruo » Sat May 19, 2012 9:49 am

Gene Scarborough wrote:We all know that every ordained clergyman got his ordination after some sort of vetting process.

I'm not sure this is quite the case, Gene. Certainly in Baptist churches (even ABC, surely SBC, and almost by definition IFB etc.) there are plenty of people whose vetting as ordinands was essentially done at the local church level, not necessarily involving an accredited seminary and possibly even flying in the face of contrary recommendations from denominational types. And if someone sets up his own non-denominational or propriodenominational church and then has that church ordain her, that is not something a denominational organization at any higher level ought to be held accountable for (since they couldn't do anything about it). Of course, if the denomination knew something was seriously wrong with an ordinand and failed to inform the local church, that might be actionable, but failure to vet those they were not involved in hiring or ordaining, you might as well blame them for Monica Lewinsky.
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Re: Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby Ed Pettibone » Sat May 19, 2012 10:05 am

Gene Scarborough wrote:Would anyone still say we don't need to deal with this now?

Why have we waited until money gets on the line as did the Roman Catholics?


Ed: Who has said we don't need to deal with what? And again who are the "we" of whom you speak? Many Baptist including some in the SBC do excellent job vetting staff and have done so for many years. And I want to go on record as saying I hope William is proven wrong in his speculation that an appeal will overturn this case.

And Gene why did you so quickly jump over Jerry_B's interesting comments, not to mention my comments just preceding his? Do you have any practical suggestions as how the problem can be addressed ? This is the only case that I have heard of that has involved a church planter associate with a State convention being charged with contributing to sexual child abuse. And I am glad to a prosecutor took this approach of going after the State convention.

Thinking out loud, I wonder if, in the case of person who secures a church position with the assistance of a denominational seminary's placement service might open the door to making the denomination a party to such a suit?
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Re: Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby Haruo » Sat May 19, 2012 11:02 am

Ed Pettibone wrote:And what you usually get back is a statement that says something to the effect that "The official records of this jurisdiction show no criminal charges against the Individual named herein and with the SS# ---_--_ ----. Another space on my personal report in Florda, stated that on "Date; 4-xx-1986 the applicant was issued a ticket in the city of Hollywod, ________ county Fla for driving with no tail light on the drivers side of his vehicle. A fine was paid. The applicant has previously held drivers licenses in Ohio and Indiana. If pertinent an employer may request information from the DMV of those states."

In my opinion such background checks are in adequate.

I thought I put my background check in my wallet, but no, I left it in my adequate...

Seriously (sort of), though, I wonder if the form you cite might, if the recipient actually contacted said DMVs, open those agencies to liability for failing to keep tabs on drivers' sex offenses.
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Re: Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby Gene Scarborough » Sat May 19, 2012 12:34 pm

When anyone gets "ordained" it implies trust and a Christ-like character. It is granted by some higher authority or some Council which reviewed the individual.

In my view, that is a trust which, if violated, needs to be withdrawn. Those who should grant it and not assume a lifetime responsibility (if it is violated) are culpable.

I had a man on my church staff who was a womanizer. I had vetted him with a personal ministerial friend who knew him and gave him a pass for not being married at an older age after seminary. I confronted it as his Senior Minister. He did not change and I brought in the Personel Committee which confronted it as well. When he persisted, with a smile on his face, we called him back in and required his resignation before it reached a critical point and became a scandal.

The saddest thing was, I was the "bad guy" for hurting "poor little David." Well, David was a pervert who got appointed by the HMB as a Chaplain over my negative review and follow-up phone call. He was more than charming. Sure enough, in a couple of years a distraut man called me and revealed how the man had seduced his wife and daughter away from him!

I had, further, contacted David's ordaining church to appraise them of the moral failure of their ordained. What the did or didn't do, I do not know.

In the legal aspects, I volunteered to go and be a witness if the man wanted to sue the HMB. I did my part to maintain my integrity and that of Christian/Baptist morality. That was in a day before all the scandal over Priests and ministers.

Why should any follower of the Bible neglect to maintain his own integrity and that of ministerial associates? At the least, my conscience was clear. At the worst, those who neglect their duty, should be subject to penalty for such. God will judge them---but how many innocent people are hurt in the process if we "leave it all to God?"
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Re: Florida Convention Liable for Child Sex Abuse

Postby Ed Pettibone » Sat May 19, 2012 6:24 pm

Haruo wrote:
Ed Pettibone wrote:And what you usually get back is a statement that says something to the effect that "The official records of this jurisdiction" show no criminal charges against the Individual named herein and with the SS# ---_--_ ----. Another space on my personal report in Florida, stated that on "Date; 4-xx-1986 the applicant was issued a ticket in the city of Hollywod, ________ county Fla for driving with no tail light on the drivers side of his vehicle. A fine was paid. The applicant has previously held drivers licenses in Ohio and Indiana. If pertinent an employer may request information from the DMV of those states."

In my opinion such background checks are in adequate.

I thought I put my background check in my wallet, but no, I left it in my adequate...

Seriously (sort of), though, I wonder if the form you cite might, if the recipient actually contacted said DMVs, open those agencies to liability for failing to keep tabs on drivers' sex offenses.


Ed: Thank you Haruo , I spotted that typo after some one else had posted behind me and I did not care to have it look as if I may have edited to to change the meaning. Also, please note my deliberate use of a qualifier "a statement that says something to the effect". And to your second quibble, note I was following the lead of this statement in the linked story "Before Myers started his church work in Florida, the convention ran a background search on him, including a search of criminal cases, motor-vehicle violations and a credit check, according to testimony.'" Such forms cover problematic areas and are not focused on sexual activity alone. The Jury's point and mine stands, the Florida Baptist State Convention (legal name), did not exercise due diligence as William claimed.
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