Monday, June 25, 2012

Update on Florida sex abuse liability case

A jury found the Florida Baptist Convention liable for the criminal actions of a church planter they trained and assisted. The jurors concluded that the FBC and local association did not do enough checks on this man who is a convicted child abuser.

Now, the Florida Baptist Convention requests verdict reversal in liability case and the Convention will appeal if motions fail. 

While the jury found the Convention liable for sexual abuse of a minor committed by a church planting-pastor, it also agreed with the Convention’s contention the pastor was not its employee.

“You can’t make a finding that we’re responsible for, in essence, behavior that is associated with someone who’s under my employ and then turn around and make a decision factually that the person was never under my employ,” said E.T. Fernandez III in a June 7 interview with Florida Baptist Witness.

“Legally, we call that an inconsistent verdict,” the Jacksonville-based attorney representing the Convention explained.

Fernandez has filed a motion for a new trial and a motion for “judgment notwithstanding the verdict.”

I read "slam dunk" between the lines of the Florida Baptist Convention lawyer's statements.

Nonetheless, one would hope that those in positions of responsibility have already tightened the procedures for vetting church planters that we may enlist, train, and support. It doesn't look good for Southern Baptists at any level to be putting child abusers in new churches.

We can do better than the FBC and Lake County Association did in this case. It will cost more money and take more time but has to be done.

A thirteen year old boy, in the eighth grade at the time, was selected and abused repeatedly over a period of six months by this man who convinced the kid it was a normal part of growing up.

The man had incidents but no convictions in two previous churches once authorities began to investigate.

A more thorough vetting process would have uncovered no prior convictions but would have found these prior suspicions and incidents.

Someone is at fault here and it is not the victim nor the church plant. The state convention and association should have strict rules and procedures in place to approve fund, and train church planters.

If state conventions and associations, along with churches, do a better job here and less kids get sexually abused in churches.


Anonymous said...

I hope someone puts together something that establishes how far an entity must go, to do due diligence, when hiring or training so something like this does not happen again.

I still believe the churches which this man was at prior and he abused kids should be held responsible if they did not report it. Does anyone know who they are? Does anyone care? Are their pockets to shallow to be concerned with?

Some things this might do is (1) see the flow of people coming into ministry if there is a history of abuse. (2) See the moving from church to church by ministers who simply are tired of the now new larger glass house we must live in. (3) Simple weed out those who are in this for the wrong reason.

I guess we are now going to have to add a line to our budget to pay for background checks, blood tests and lie detector tests for all who choose to join our church.

Let the trumpet sound.

Jon Estes

William Thornton said...

I would speculate that SBC entities have tightened up their vetting process for those whom they fund.

Joe McGee said...

William, I beleive that Lifway offers an affordable criminal background search.

Anonymous said...

joe, they did the background checks.The problem was that they did not contact previous places of service.