Southern Baptist Convention says it's under DOJ investigation

The investigation follows a report on sexual abuse from denomination leaders.

August 12, 2022, 6:49 PM

The Southern Baptist Convention announced Friday it is under investigation by the Department of Justice following the release of a 288-page report that found that the denomination's top leaders ignored sexual abuse allegations and disparaged survivors for more than two decades.

"Individually and collectively each SBC entity is resolved to fully and completely cooperate with the investigation," a statement from organization leaders read.

It continued, "While we continue to grieve and lament past mistakes related to sexual abuse, current leades across the SBC have demonstrated a firm conviction to address those issues of the past and are implementing measures to ensure they are never repeated in the future."

The report released in May was conducted by Guidepost Solutions, an independent firm contracted by the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee. It found that survivors and concerned Southern Baptists continuously shared allegations with the executive committee.

PHOTO: A cross and Bible sculpture stand outside the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., May 24, 2022.
A cross and Bible sculpture stand outside the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., May 24, 2022.
Holly Meyer/AP

The report found that those who came forward were "met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC."

The report also found that SBC leaders were concerned about church liability and its reputation and ignored concerns "even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation."

In a May interview with "ABC News Live," then-president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ed Litton said the damning independent investigative report on sex abuse allegations was "overdue."

"The rumors were always out there that these things were happening," Litton said on "ABC News Live." "There were several attempts made at our convention meetings to bring this to light. But they were very successfully pushed down."

Sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches was spotlighted in 2019 by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News in a report that documented hundreds of cases. Several of the accused perpetrators remained in ministry.

The investigation from local journalists led to thousands of delegates voting to create a task force charged with overseeing a third-party review of the denomination's leaders.