The US Southern Baptist released a scathing report on sexual assault

ATLANTA (Reuters) – For decades, complaints of sexual abuse by priests and employees of America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, have been ignored or covered up by senior clergy, according to an internal report released Sunday.

The 300-page report detailed how the complaints were kept as “closely guarded secrets” within the church to avoid liability, “to the exclusion of all other considerations.”

“In the service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored and disbeliefed,” the report said, as church leaders covered up the accusations and allowed accused clergy members to remain chaplains or other positions of power.

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She added that the lawsuits against the church were described as “opportunistic” and without any basis.

A year-long investigation was initiated by the Southern Baptist Convention in June 2021, when a series of complaints were raised at its annual meeting. Complaints centered on sexual abuse by priests and volunteers and the lack of response from the religious body’s executive committee. Read more

“We are saddened by the results of this investigation,” Roland Slade, chair of the church’s executive committee, said in a statement.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to prevent cases of sexual assault in churches in the future, to improve our response and care, (and) to remove reporting barriers,” the statement read.

The Southern Baptist Church Conference claims over 13 million members in the United States and over 40 million worldwide.

The scandal mirrors that faced by the Roman Catholic Church, shaken by allegations of sexual abuse, when the Boston Globe revealed in 2002 that the church’s hierarchy has been covering up sexual misconduct by clergy for decades.

The US Catholic Church has paid an estimated $3.2 billion to settle clergy abuse cases, according to, which tracks the case.

In 2019, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express News reported that more than 700 victims were abused by priests, leaders, and volunteers at Southern Baptist congregations. Read more

The Southern Baptist Inquiry was conducted by Guidepost Solutions LLC.

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Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Paul Simao and Tom Hogg

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.