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If passed, a bill in the Texas legislature would protect churches and other nonprofits that report sexual misconduct allegations against former employees. Texas House Bill 4345, the brainchild of several Southern Baptist groups and leaders, shields organizations from lawsuits when they disclose allegations, even if those allegations haven’t been proven and criminal charges haven’t been filed.
The bill is a response to the Houston Chronicle investigation into hundreds of sexual abuse cases within Southern Baptist churches. The denomination’s policy of local church autonomy was cited as a possible reason predators could travel from one congregation to another.
Baptist - Pastors - Ben - Wright - Bart
Two Southern Baptist pastors, Ben Wright and Bart Barber, set the legislation in motion with assistance from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Texas Rep. Scott Sanford, a Southern Baptist pastor, was recruited to introduce the bill, which has bipartisan support. Sanford’s spokesperson says the bill was “brought to us by faith leaders,” and the legislator “saw this as an important step to reporting and preventing sexual abuse.”
Goal - HB4345 - Environment - Jim - Richards
The goal of HB4345 is to “provide a safe environment for the vulnerable,” says Jim Richards, SBTC executive director. Churches “must do everything we can to protect the innocents from predators,” he adds.
The bill, which “all came together in the past month,” encourages honesty, according to SBTC spokesman Gary Ledbetter. When churches are asked to provide references for former employees, lawyers usually warn them to “say...
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