We verified that about had been convicted of sex crimes or received deferred prosecutions in plea deals and sent letters to all of them soliciting their responses to summaries we compiled. We received written responses from more than 30 and interviewed three in Texas prisons. Find our records that relate to those convicted or forced to register as sex offenders at HoustonChronicle. Nearly are still held in prisons stretching from Sacramento County, Calif. Scores of others cut deals and served no time. More than are registered sex offenders. Some still work in Southern Baptist churches today.
Journalists in the two newsrooms spent more than six months reviewing thousands of pages of court, prison and police records and conducting hundreds of interviews. They built a database of former leaders in Southern Baptist churches who have been convicted of sex crimes. In some cases, church leaders apparently failed to alert law enforcement about complaints or to warn other congregations about allegations of misconduct. Others remain there, including a Houston preacher who sexually assaulted a teenager and now is the principal officer of a Houston nonprofit that works with student organizations, federal records show.
Its name: Touching the Future Today Inc. Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors' studies and Sunday school classrooms. A few were adults — women and men who sought pastoral guidance and instead say they were seduced or sexually assaulted. Heather Schneider was 14 when she was molested in a choir room at Houston's Second Baptist Church, according to criminal and civil court records.
Her mother, Gwen Casados, said church leaders waited months to fire the attacker, who later pleaded no contest. In response to her lawsuit, church leaders also denied responsibility. Schneider slit her wrists the day after that attack in , Casados said. She survived, but she died 14 years later from a drug overdose that her mother blames on the trauma. Others took decades to come forward, and only after their lives had unraveled. David Pittman was 12, he says, when a youth minister from his Georgia church first molested him in Two other former members of the man's churches said in interviews that they also were abused by him.
But by the time Pittman spoke out in , it was too late to press criminal charges. Pittman won't soon forgive those who have offered prayers but taken no action. He only recently stopped hating God. I mean, their faith is slaughtered by these predators. In an interview, he expressed "sorrow" about some of the newspapers' findings but said the convention's leadership can do only so much to stop sexual abuses.
What we're talking about is criminal. The fact that criminal activity occurs in a church context is always the basis of grief. But it's going to happen. And that statement does not mean that we must be resigned to it. At the core of Southern Baptist doctrine is local church autonomy, the idea that each church is independent and self-governing.
It's one of the main reasons that Boto said most of the proposals a decade ago were viewed as flawed by the executive committee because the committee doesn't have the authority to force churches to report sexual abuse to a central registry. Because of that, Boto said, the committee "realized that lifting up a model that could not be enforced was an exercise in futility," and so instead drafted a report that "accepted the existence of the problem rather than attempting to define its magnitude.
SBC churches and organizations share resources and materials, and together they fund missionary trips and seminaries. Most pastors are ordained locally after they've convinced a small group of church elders that they've been called to service by God. There is no central database that tracks ordinations, or sexual abuse convictions or allegations. All of that makes Southern Baptist churches highly susceptible to predators, says Christa Brown, an activist who wrote a book about being molested as a child by a pastor at her SBC church in Farmers Branch, a Dallas suburb.
To try to measure the problem, the newspapers collected and cross-checked news reports, prison records, court records, sex offender registries and other documents. Reporters also conducted hundreds of interviews with victims, church leaders, investigators and offenders. Several factors make it likely that the abuse is even more widespread than can be documented: Victims of sexual assault come forward at a low rate; many cases in churches are handled internally; and many Southern Baptist churches are in rural communities where media coverage is sparse.
It's clear, however, that SBC leaders have long been aware of the problem. Bowing to pressure from activists, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, one of the largest SBC state organizations, in published a list of eight sex offenders who had served in Southern Baptist churches in Texas. Around the same time, the Rev. Thomas Doyle wrote to SBC leaders, imploring them to act. A priest and former high-ranking lawyer for the Catholic Church, Doyle in the s was one of the earliest to blow the whistle on child sexual abuse in the church.
But Catholic leaders "lied about it Doyle turned to activism because of his experiences, work that brought him closer to those abused in Southern Baptist churches. Their stories — and how the SBC handled them — felt hauntingly familiar, he said. The responses were predictable, Doyle said. In one, Frank Page, then the SBC president, wrote that they were "taking this issue seriously" but that local church autonomy presented "serious limitations. Details have not been disclosed, but SBC officials said they had "no reason to suspect any legal impropriety. Other leaders have acknowledged that Baptist churches are troubled by predators but that they could not interfere in local church affairs.
Even so, the SBC has ended its affiliation with at least four churches in the past 10 years for affirming or endorsing homosexual behavior. The SBC governing documents ban gay or female pastors, but they do not outlaw convicted sex offenders from working in churches. In one email to Debbie Vasquez, Augie Boto assured her that "no Baptist I know of is pretending that 'the problem does not exist.
Hopefully, the harm emanating from such occurrences will cause the local churches to be more aggressively vigilant. Gwen Casados sits in her daughter's room in Houston. Her daughter, Heather Schneider, was sexually abused inside Second Baptist Church in Houston in and later died of a drug overdose. The SBC Executive Committee also wrote in that it "would certainly be justified" to end affiliations with churches that "intentionally employed a known sexual offender or knowingly placed one in a position of leadership over children or other vulnerable participants in its ministries.
Greear reaffirmed that stance in an email to the Chronicle , writing that any church that "proves a pattern of sinful neglect — regarding abuse or any other matter — should absolutely be removed from fellowship from the broader denomination. Churches that ignore that are out of line with both Scripture and Baptist principles of cooperation. But the newspapers found at least 10 SBC churches that welcomed pastors, ministers and volunteers since who had previously faced charges of sexual misconduct. In some cases, they were registered sex offenders. In Illinois, Leslie Mason returned to the pulpit a few years after he was convicted in on two counts of criminal sexual assault.
Mason had been a rising star in local Southern Baptist circles until the charges were publicized by Michael Leathers, who was then editor of the state's Baptist newspaper. Letters from angry readers poured in. Among those upset by Leathers' decision to publish the story was Glenn Akins, the interim executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Akins, now the assistant executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, declined an interview request.
Leathers resigned after state Baptist convention leaders told him he might be fired and lose his severance pay, he said. Mason, meanwhile, admitted to investigators that he had relationships with four different girls, records show. Mason received a seven-year prison sentence under a plea deal in which investigators dropped all but two of his charges.
After his release, he returned to the pulpit of a different SBC church a few miles away. If a church calls a woman to pastor their church, there are a lot of Southern Baptist organizations that, sadly, would disassociate with them immediately. Why wouldn't they do the same for convicted sex offenders? Mason has since preached at multiple SBC churches in central Illinois. He said in an interview that those churches "absolutely know about my past," and said churches and other institutions need "to be better at handling" sexual abuse. Mason said that "nobody is above reproach in all things" and that church leaders — particularly those who work with children — "desperately need accountability.
Jones, also leader of a nonprofit called Touching the Future Today, was included on the list of convicted ministers released by the Baptist General Convention of Texas a decade ago.
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In December, Cathedral of Faith celebrated its 20th anniversary at a downtown Houston hotel, according to the church's website. A flyer for the event touted sermons from Jones, another pastor and Joseph S. Ratliff, the longtime pastor of Houston's Brentwood Baptist Church. Ratliff was sued in for sexual misconduct with a man he was counseling. The lawsuit was settled and dismissed by agreement of the parties, according to Harris County court records and interviews. The settlement is subject to a confidentiality agreement. Ratliff has been sued two other times, one involving another person who had come in for counseling; the other involved his handling of allegations against another church official, Harris County records show.
At the time of his death Joe was a newlywed. Joseph Jennings March 11, December 29, R. My friend Sean and I were in the same sober house. He was one who would give the shirt off of his back to a family member or friend in need. I got to know Sean well. He helped me accept my problems and move on with my life. Sean simply said that he wanted me to have them. It was if he knew he might not make it. Unbeknownst to me Sean relapsed. He died of an overdose. He had everything going for him.
A 5 year old son who adored him, a wonderful family. A good job. At 26 his life was over. Sean Hanagan August 26, March 30, R. My friend Rob was a good guy. He had a positive attitude and got the most out of life. He was very active in the program. Rob worked hard with his sponsor. He had some many plans for the future. Four days before his death Rob did a commitment. By all appearance he was doing well. At 37 his life was over. Rob never realized how many people he helped out. On the night of March 14, my world suffered a tremendous tragedy. Not only my world but those who deeply adored you.
Andrew stood out. His green eyes were always glowing. Andrew was so beautiful that the first time I saw him he caught my eye but I got scared and had to look away only to look back again. The first night we talked on the phone I was laying on this park bench looking up at the stars.
I remember feeling so childlike. At that time I had very little. My life was a little broken. I had you and that was all I needed. The more time without you, the more I miss you. If it could have changed your story. It could have but for how long? We all die but like this? I will never have all the answers.
But what I do know is what happened to you should have never happened. You would have went on to do many more great things. My memories of us are imprinted on my heart forever and I am forever changed. Thanks for coming up to me that night. This tribute is not only for Andrew but for the rest who have been robbed of their lives due to this disease. May your souls rest in peace. Please keep in memory my loving husband Robert Luna Estrada.
Born March 8th and passed away on March 8th He was overdosed with Fentanyl. He died on his birthday and will be loved and missed by everyone. If the people he was with had known to watch over him or how to tell the signs…. I love you. I hope we see each other again in heaven. Death is gods business. I feel guilty. You were everything to me. I was proud to be seen with. I always I was o er my head. Please forgive for enabling or not being a better example or more tolerant I love you David Little Rock. Jordan, God I miss you so. I like to think this is the case. Of course I talk to you everywhere!!!
I regret you leaving so soon buddy, your life had just begun. I regret not being a better friend, maybe had I shown tough love things may have turned out differently, but then again we may not have been friends…Such a thin line between helping someone and enabling them exist. And that line gets crossed and sadly was crossed. I wish you peace my friend, comfort for your family. Give Mom a hug for me and tell her I love her and miss her and tell her to do the same for you!!!
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I love you Jordan. Till next then, little more… Mick. Please, rest easy L. Someone do something about this awful drug overdose epidemic. James Ryan Woods. They will forever remain in our hearts! He was loved by many. Caine was a good student, a junior Olympic athlete, a college educated man, an amazing soccer goal keeper, and he was so connected to his family and friends. Be gave a strong handshake and looked you in the eye.
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Caines life with heroin was short lived. His life is what made me the person I am. I want to give tribute to my son for teaching me many lessons in life. Those lessons continue with a hole in my heart. I would like to commemorate Jerminda Cox who lost her 30 year struggle with addiction in the receiving room of a prison in August You may not be here with me but the memories i have with you will never go away …. Daniel Costello. Our beautiful 24 year old son ….. Loving,caring,compassionate, fun-loving, and so missed by his mother and father. We wait patiently for the day the Lord Jesus reunites us all again.
We love you Danny. A year ago we found you on your bedroom floor. We were a family of four, now a ship wreck of three just clinging to the debris left behind and drifting. Our son was a strong, capable, intelligent, hardworking, kind and compassionate man. He was prescribed pills after a surgery in high school and found out he could buy more at school. Fast forward six years and two stays in rehab, what would have been a simple relapse killed him due to fentanyl. He did not want to die. We would have done anything to keep him alive and help him get better.
He had everything to live for. In Memory of my son Anthony I miss you so much it hurts. Till we meet again my friend. Matt-we miss you every single day and will never fully recover losing you so suddenly and way too soon. You had so much life left to live and so much left to offer. Your daughter has not been able to come to terms with losing you and is such a sad little girl who misses her daddy.
You were my best friend.
We love you Matty. Boy did you ever fight hard this past year with your struggles. You made Me so very proud. You always worried about disappointing me. And I constantly reassured you that you were my hero. Never a disappointment. I pray in my heart that you believed that before you died. I was always your biggest cheerleader.
And when you were approaching 5 months clean we were all so excited and proud. You once said that you were too smart to overdose. My worst nightmare came true when I got that dreaded call at work. I raced home trying to convince myself that they had saved you with Narcan. And my pain is raw. You were like a son to me. I took care of you. I packed your lunch and left you little notes.
I always told you to make good choices every single time you walked out the door. You will always hold a special place in my heart. We thought about selling the house because of the traumatic memories. But now we want to stay because of all the living memories we have of you.
I will always hear you running up and down the steps with your keys jingling on your belt loop. I know heaven gained a very handsome angel with a killer smile I know you are lighting up heaven with it, as you skateboard on the streets of gold. Make good choices my sweet boy. Mike Forever My darling Christin Green who would be thirty years old this Sunday coming up died of a Fentanyl overdose 2 years ago March 7, I think of you everyday and miss you more………..
Rest in my peace my sweet first born child and keep watching down over your two beautiful daughters one which i am now raising. In loving memory of my daughter Amber who died from an overdose on February 19th just 13 days after her 24th Birthday. You are forever missed and loved on this earth. I keep my faith in knowing that this is just temporary thing and I will see you again one day.
In Loving memory of my Dear son Stevie Hardy. He left this world on June 16, I Love and miss him so much. I placed flowers on your grave that cold day. I noticed the chime I had hung from the tree above your headstone chimed all the time I was there talking with you and all the while II walked to my car. I miss you as much as the day you left buddy. Does the sadness ever go away? I am thankful I knew you, for the time we had my friend. Most of all I am thankful you no longer have to suffer my friend. In memory of my son, Louis Michael DeBacco 36 , a light in the darkness, who was taken home on Rest my son.
Grief and sorrow make a person weak and strong at the same time. My only sibling died of an overdose in March It will be 15 years in It started so innocently 20 years before from a dislocated thumb. Please ALL be aware how easily it begins and can happen to anyone especially those with an addictive personality. It started with 3s and ended with everything that contained opiates including cough syrup. My sibling first obtained it legally and in the end obtained it all illegally. These are our loved ones, love them always, love comes first over any imperfection we have.
They are of worth of infinite worth. The overdose spray was not available then like it is now, please have it on hand. I know I will see PHB again only without this addiction. My sibling is now reunited with our father who died in , our mother and the dear grandmother who loved us both. To my mom, I miss you so much and my heart is broken to pieces. I love you mommy, I always will and I will see you when my time comes.
Rest in piece momma We were laughing and talking.. Nightmare begins.. Flight to maine.. See my baby, cold,just wake up please.. Back home to Florida… Life goes on… But I just keep waiting for your call.. Anything… Your sister took some of your ashes to Peru.. I know you loved to travel… Now your in heaven.. No pain.. No demands. Love u boo. In memory of my lovely son Ryan, forever Took ectasy at a rave for the first time the night before Mothers day , the next thing I know the police are knocking on my door at 6am Mothers day.
After 4 long days in intensive care, Ryan sadly lost his life and to say the family he has left behind are devastated is an understatement. We miss him every single day and I will grieve for him for the rest of my life. My soul sister Valerie. I love and miss you so much. You had such a hard life and then nine sober years. You went to college, you helped other people, you got knocked down and got up again until you could not. I hate the disease , I will always love you. My fiance, Mike, passed away this afternoon from a heroin overdose. He was an addict for 18 years but was getting clean again.
He was my everything and I miss him so much!!! In honor of my first born child, my only daughter, Lauren Taylor. Our hearts are broken and always will be. We miss you so much. We long to hear your giggle and see your happy smile. Taylor was a happy, smart, beautiful young woman that loved her brother and was blessed to have a large family that supported her thru out her young life.
No one ever deserves to battle this horrible addiction. No one deserves to die from this horrible disease. Addiction can take everything from a person, from the family and friends, and ultimately, in some cases, takes their life. She overdosed only once. I we will always wonder if we could of saved her. What could we have done differently. We pray for strength and pray for the many families going thru this type of loss of a loved one. My beautiful seester. Your 5 beautiful children and your beautiful little grand daughter……they will miss you forever. You were only My seester had 18 months clean.
She had a moment of weakness. That moment will never take away how proud I am of you. You were such a fighter. I am proud that I was able to fight along side with you. I will do everything I can to remind your babies of who you were. I will do everything I can to hug and kiss your dad and our mom as often as possible. I will push through this pain and fear and anger and lonliness so that I can be there for your beautiful grand baby. I love you seester.
More than words can explain. In memory of my beautiful daughter Caroline who passed away to a drugs overdose on 5th November , she was 31 years old and had been clean for a good 3 years up to her dad passing away Dec This seemed to be the catalyst for her demise. I feel absolutely devastated and so does her sister , we are still struggling to comprehend that we will never see her again or hear her chatty voice.
She was always such a chatty optimist and our lives without her will never be the same again. P Caroline I pray that you are with the angels now. I lost my son this Christmas morning. He was clean for 10 months, had good job, car , apartment. We dont know why he gave in to his addiction. We will always love him and miss him. Lost my brother Paul October 21st to a cocaine overdose Lost my brother James April 13th to a heroine overdose I think of you both every day.
This is for my daughter Lindsay. Lost you Thanksgiving day this year. My heart is broken. I know you fought this battle for several years. My baby girl your battle is now over and I pray that there is no more unhappiness for you. Read one of the last msgs in your phone saying how you hated dope. Love you. I will see you on the other side my lil girl. My boyfriend Keith passed away almost one year ago on January 6th, to a heroin overdose. He was my soulmate, my entire world in so many ways. I miss him more as each day passes, am actually starting to wonder if this pain will ever subside.
I was there, woke up to him slumped over on my back, me screaming as I tried to wake him up, but he was already gone by the time the paramedics showed up. He had too much to live for. I miss you, bibbi. Anyway, I love you, Keith, always have, always will. Morsa Muro Spidle. Not a day goes by i dont think about the good times we shared. I tried so hard to help you but the heroin got the best of you. I promise i will take care of the kids. You go and rest in peace. Clayton Dec 18, You suffered with depression and drug addiction for the last 20 yrs. Last year you got into a bran new apt complex and for the first time in years you had a roof over your head, food in the fridge and seemed to be doing so well.
Last Christmas was wonderful as our little family all got together at your place to celebrate. I was thanking God every night for that year, it was truly a miracle. It was so comforting to know you were living a normal life. Chris and I wanted to drive down last March for my birthday to celebrate with you and your brother , but you had moved out and gone back to your old life. You told me when I spoke with you a couple of weeks ago that you were living with a friend and at that time we made plans for Xmas. You had a court date Dec 18 up here so Chris and I were expecting you for dinner , instead the police arrived with the news that your body was found in a tent early that afternoon.
The temperature the night before was I feel that had I been educated about addiction and been more supportive you wold still be with us. Instead I believe that addiction was about just making your mind up not to use. I am so sorry that I will never have the opportunity to make this up to you and tell you how very much I love you.
My brothers both passed from addiction. Im stuck wondering which his was. He was clean right before and said he felt great that happens and passes fast then to use. My best friend died August 14, She started using in February or March of She didnt struggle long, but she did struggle. She was depressed and trying to cover up the pain she was feeling.
I miss her dearly. She was an amazing friend and person. So many people at her funeral. She was a gift to anyone who met her. My father John Thomas Reilly lost his life to an overdose of opioids. He struggled with addiction, and was in South Florida at the time when the incident happened. My family was hurt by his death, but I continue to fight for awareness.
August 31, — May 29, Joseph is our only son, our first born, died of an accidental overdose. Ironic how I have come to learn National Overdose Day is his actual birthday. His presence in life shined so bright I can still feel him, even though he is no longer in this living world.
I miss you Joseph, we all miss you, we find strength every day through you living so strong in our hearts. The world became quieter when you left, but I have no doubt heaven is definitely much louder! Life is so different without you. We are forever a team my beautiful son.
I lost my only sibling, John Page on January 29, He died of lethal combination of heroin and benzodiazapine. John will forever be missed. Codey was clean for over a year when he intentionally overdosed and died January 20, He saved me, broke my door down before I could pull the trigger. Each attempt to get clean was a testimony of your gallant spirit to overcome, and not a sign of failure. Please know that! You will ever be in our hearts and sorely missed. I grieve the future things that should have been, but now will never be as each season passes.
We who are left here without you will never be able to fathom the happiness of any occasion without your presence. I also grieve for the things in your life that you so longed for in your heart, and struggled to obtain that will never come to pass. Be at peace now sweet, kind, sensitive, considerate Nico. Your goodness was no match for the ugliness of the substance that took you. Remember what I wrote to you in your Bible. You are so loved. I want you to know that I am so very thankful for the short time you came into my life 9 months.
It was a life time crammed into that short span of time for sure. Jordan I wish you Peace and Joy and rest from the struggles that hounded you here on this earth. I wish I could have helped you in some way, but feel I fell short. Know that I Love you Jordan and that I always will!! Till we meet again… Give my Mom a hug for me and tell her I love her and tell her to give you a hug and tell you I love you!!! Til next then, little more… Mick. To my amazing big brother, Kenneth Dupree, who recently passed on October 30th.
Will Brennan, you will always be my bestfriend, pledge brother, and brother for life. Our pledge class still always talks about you every day remembering all of the great memories you blessed us with. I love you brother, rest easy. We will all see eachother again. When you lose your spouse you are widowed.
When you lose your child you are…? I lost a husband to heroin overdose someone that I loved very much someone that I can honestly say was the first person that I could say I actually was in love with this drug took his life, took him away from his beautiful children that loved him so much and his grandchildren ,this is an awful drug!!.. I will miss u.. My beautiful son Matthew was found dead on August 27, Drugs did not define him at all. He was a beautiful son with a future that would of been bright. He was the kind of young man that gave with his whole heart and never asked for much in return.
He would come to me late at night and say Momma I cant do it all. I would tell him every time to stop worrying about what others said and thought about him. He had nothing to prove. Rest in peace my beautiful Matty I love you Love Mamma. Sweet Soul left us after a relapse battle in September 1, We miss you. Adam Joshua, — , my little brother, heroin overdose. He had a great voice, he was a big teddy bear, he loved to eat and cook, he loved the Grateful Dead, he was a sweet uncle, and a pain in the ass, and i loved him.
Scottie, My brother. You were such a beautiful man with a bright smile and squinty eyes. Your big bear hugs brought me so much security and warmth during the times we held each other. I wish I could have a million more of those hugs and be able to hear your laugh or see your smile instead of listening to videos and looking through pictures. Your death haunts me daily. The grief and thoughts of what could have been done and said. What more could we have done.
I have never seen someone fight addiction as hard as you did and you did it all for your family. It has been less than a year since you left us but it feels like a lifetime. I ache. Tonight I fell to the ground, wondering if you felt all the pain when you left this world.
Were you scared? Were you at peace?
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Did you think about all of us who loved you? I am so proud of what you overcame when you were here and what mark you left in this world. Your daughter misses you. She is getting so big and looks more and more like you every day. I love you, Scott. I miss you like hell. Matthew, My heart still hurts every day since you went to heaven my sweet son.
I love and miss you so much! All my love, Muszzi MaMa. Baby Brother we loved you very much. Cocaine and alcohol took you that morning. Jennifer Andrews. Damage Control. Amber Dermont. Alana Terry. The Wentworths. Katie Arnoldi. Guys Read: Will. Adam Rex. Night Terrors. Lisa McCourt Hollar. A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Families. Colleen Sell. A Winters Morning. Short Story Press. Dark Musings, Volume 1. Jason Mott. Survival On The Addiction Highway. Daniel Hue Freeman. How to End the Worry Habit. Farrell Psychologist. Sticks and Stones. Baylee Dawson. Standing Up. Marion Grodin. The Official Guide to Dysfunctional Parenting.
Gregory Nemec. Ruth Pettite. Darnella Ford. Michael D. Saving Grace.
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