- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2022

A Baylor University professor has penned an op-ed calling on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to investigate the hundreds of cases of sexual abuse in the state’s Southern Baptist churches.

Blake Burleson, a professor of world religions at the Baptist-affiliated school in Waco, Texas, said in an interview Tuesday that “secular intervention” by civil authorities “made the difference” in recent years when cases of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church surfaced.

“There’s a similar playbook that the Southern Baptist executive committee was running, that they were just simply trying to hide the evidence and because of the replications [because of] what it would cause to the name brand [of] Southern Baptists,” he said.

Mr. Burleson, who said he left the SBC years ago over what he called “the fundamentalist takeover” of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, said he remains interested in the issues surrounding the group as a religion professor, though he said he’s not an expert on Baptist history.

The Washington Times has contacted Mr. Paxton’s office for comment.

The Baylor professor made his case in an op-ed published Sunday by the Waco Tribune-Herald. He said he believes “moderate and progressive Baptists and even some of the conservative folks in the Baptist world will applaud” his position.

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“The bigger question,” he said, “is probably the theological issue of male leadership, and how that has contributed to this. That’s probably a story that hasn’t been explored that much.”

Mr. Burleson said a lack of women in SBC leadership contributed to the problems.

The SBC has been roiled by news reports and a recent internal study revealing decades of sexual assaults, misconduct and cover-ups on the part of SBC pastors and denomination leaders across multiple states.

Mr. Burleson said that if Mr. Paxton, a Republican who is up for reelection this year, is unwilling to launch a probe, local district attorneys should investigate.

Christa Brown, an SBC abuse survivor and victim advocate, told The Times via email she supported Mr. Burleson’s effort.

“Secular intervention is the way forward,” she said. “If kids and congregants are ever to be made safer in the country’s largest Protestant faith group, then the intervention of secular authorities is needed.”

Ms. Brown noted she had last year “called for secular intervention at the federal level, but I’d also be delighted to see state attorneys general conduct these kinds of investigations, particularly in the southern states where Southern Baptists are so dominant.”

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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