Southern Baptist Leaders Initiate Texas Bill Allowing Churches to Disclose Abuse Allegations Without Fear of Civil Liability

Southern Baptist pastors and leaders have initiated a Texas bill to allow nonprofits including churches to disclose credible but unproven sexual abuse allegations with no fear of civil liability.

Texas House Bill 4345, introduced in the legislature March 8, would protect charitable organizations and their volunteers when disclosing such information to prospective employers, even when no criminal charges have been filed against the accused.

Those who spread allegations with “malicious purpose” or “in bad faith” would remain open to civil liability, according to the bill.

The bill can strengthen churches and other charitable organizations in hindering repeat offenders, said pastor Ben Wright who helped initiate the bill.

“I don’t think that it solves all of the problems related to abuse and sexual misconduct,” Wright, pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Cedar Park, Texas, told Baptist Press today (March 15). “But it does help churches and organizations know that if they pass on information that they believe to be true, that they have good reason to believe is true, it helps them know that they will be shielded from potential lawsuits.”

Wright and Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, worked together to birth the legislation with the help of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

The leaders recruited Texas Rep. Scott Sanford, executive pastor of Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen and active with the SBTC, to introduce the legislation March 8 with bipartisan support. Wright, who chairs the SBTC Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee, said Sanford is a former committee member.

Travis Wussow, ERLC vice president for public policy and general counsel, helped draft the legislation to comply with state laws and meet intended purposes.

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Source: Baptist Press