Southern Baptist leaders on Thursday released a list of alleged church-related sexual abuse offenders that denomination heads had kept secret for more than a decade. The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention said it would publish the names after it issued a third-party investigation that suggested a widespread coverup by top leaders who ignored and even “vilified” people who came forward with stories of abuse, the Washington Post reports. The database, which includes people who have been criminally convicted of abuse and those who have confessed to abuse, is expected to show what top leaders knew behind the scenes while telling Southern Baptists they could not create a list of accused abusers because the denomination is not hierarchical and churches operate independently.
A description at the top of the document reads: “This is a fluid, working document." It consists of more than 600 entries, the date the person was reported and information largely pulled from news articles, compiled from 2007 until 2022. “It is incomplete. It has not been proofed. It has not been adequately researched. It is not Southern Baptist specific," the document reads. It notes that, after June 2008, “only alleged/convicted names of abusers and [titles] of articles were catalogued.” University of Pennsylvania professor Marci Hamilton, an expert on laws aimed at preventing child abuse, said victims who were minors at the time of the abuse and came forward as adults can have a harder time because of slowly changing statutes of limitations. However, more states are extending deadlines for people to bring civil cases.