Department of Justice opens probe into Southern Baptist Convention’s handling of sexual assault

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The Southern Baptist Convention is under federal investigation after a report found leaders silenced sexual assault victims.

The investigation was confirmed by the convention in a statement, the Houston Chronicle reported. The probe will be conducted by the Department of Justice.

SBC, the second-largest faith in America and the world’s largest Baptist denomination, came under fire after a damning review in May found that several of its leaders had purposely deterred sexual assault victims from coming forward, and pushed against reforms for over two decades.

“Individually and collectively, each SBC entity is resolved to fully and completely cooperate with the investigation,” the statement by SBC said, according to the denomination’s Baptist Press.

“Our commitment to cooperate with the Department of Justice is born from our demonstrated commitment to transparently address the scourge of sexual abuse.”

According to the 288-page investigative report, leaders stonewalled and denigrated survivors of clergy sex abuse in order to protect their reputations.

The seven-month investigation was conducted by an independent firm contracted by the Executive Committee after members of the convention pushed for an independent review.

“Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse ... and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC,” the report said.

The Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reported that hundreds of SBC’s leaders had been convicted of assault, leaving behind a trail of trauma for 700 victims. Most of them children, the Chronicle reported.

The investigation, which cost $2million, found that leaders had compiled a secret list of hundreds of abusive pastors. SBC voted during its convention in June to launch a portal that allows to track pastors and workers who are facing abuse allegations, The Associated Press reported.