The pervasive cycle of child sex abuse and cover-up among Baptist and other evangelical churches: aka "Passing the trash"

Last week a lawsuit was filed against two large, popular Houston churches, Second Baptist Church (a Baptist mega-church) and Community of Faith. The lawsuit claims "the organizations were negligent by employing a youth pastor who was convicted of sexually soliciting their daughter while working there," according to a Houston Chronicle story."
Foster was part of a "marketing scheme" by Second Baptist that allowed youth pastors to encourage students in public schools to attend church activities and events, enticing them with fast food, the suit states. The goal was to recruit their parents to join. He later went to work for Community of Faith, the suit states.
The girl met Foster during her lunch hour at school, where he was able to get her involved in activities with Second Baptist. The two started a relationship as one of religious guidance, the suit states.
"This is no different than a pedophile with candy in his pocket," said Cris Feldman, attorney in the case for the parents of the girl, now 17. "It's just someone who worked for Second Baptist and was told to go into school lunch rooms and recruit."

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Foster admitted to making online sexual advances to the girl. He met at her school when she was 12 years old.  He pleaded guilty to online solicitation of a minor.  Foster also pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl he also met at school in his role as youth pastor.  Foster is currently serving a five-year prison sentence.
The lawsuit claims Second Baptist Church didn't train Foster to work with minors and knew about Foster's sinister agenda. 
"What we have here is the proverbial pedophile with the candy in his pocket," the victim's attorney, Cris Feldman, said.  
"Except this pedophile was sent into public schools with candy in his pocket provided by Second Baptist.  We believe the evidence will show that Second Baptist had full knowledge of what was going on. Or at least some idea of what was going on with Mr. Foster in that he lacked proper judgment in his actions around children."
Gary Moore, a spokesperson for Second Baptist, denied the allegations and said the church's heart aches for the victim.
"Second Baptist Church did not know of any of those allegations," Moore said in a statement.  "If these happened and if Second had been made aware of them, we would have immediately terminated anyone involved and ensured that such conduct did not continue for one minute.
Notice that Gary Moore, Second Baptist spokesperson, does not say one word about the church calling police to report the abuse as required by Texas mandatory child abuse reporting law.

See my recent post here on another former minister at Second Baptist Church of Houston accused of child sexual abuse.

In searching for news stories on the Chad Foster lawsuit, I came across a 1994 lawsuit against the First Baptist Church of Houston, our former church of almost 18 years. I was not previously aware of this lawsuit.

Marshall v. First Baptist Church of Houston
Appellant Reece Marshall brought this negligence suit against appellee, First Baptist Church of Houston. The Church moved for summary judgment on the ground that Marshall's claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court granted the Church's motion for summary judgment, and Marshall has appealed this ruling. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
Marshall was born on November 3, 1971. While he was growing up, he and his parents were active members of the First Baptist Church of Houston. In 1984, when he was 12 years old, Marshall was allegedly sexually molested by Steve Roddy, the director of children's music at the Church.
Initially, Marshall told no one of this incident.   However, in 1987 he told a couple of Church members and Minister Gerald Ray what had happened. Ray did not notify law enforcement officials, the Texas Department of Human Services, or Marshall's parents. In 1988, Marshall told Pastor John Bisagno about the alleged sexual assault, and Bisagno also failed to report the incident. Finally, in 1989, Marshall told Ministers Johnnie Deurwyn, Charles Poor, and Felix Wagner of the alleged sexual assault, and these individuals, likewise, failed to report the incident.
Marshall reached the age of majority on November 3, 1989. Over the years, Marshall suffered some emotional problems, which he contends are the direct result of the molestation and the inadequate response to Roddy's actions by ministers of the Church. In 1990, Marshall's psychological problems became severe, and he began receiving counseling on July 23, 1990.
During this time, Marshall's therapist obtained his history, which revealed the allegations of sexual abuse in addition to the allegation that Marshall's attempts to receive help from Church officials had been rejected. On February 12, 1991, Marshall was hospitalized for depression and anxiety attacks. A psychiatrist diagnosed Marshall with multiple personality disorder and chronic and severe post traumatic stress disorder.
Marshall filed suit against the First Baptist Church on January 6, 1994, alleging that the Church was liable for a continuing course of actionable conduct occurring in 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988 and 1989, which included not only the sexual assault committed by its minister, but also the rejection of Marshall's cries for help by Church officials.
The trial court granted appellee's motion for summary judgment on the ground that the two year statute of limitations barred Marshall's claim. Marshall subsequently filed a motion for new trial which was overruled.
Because Marshall turned 18 on November 3, 1989, the statute of limitations began running on that date and he had until November 3, 1991, to file his claim. 
Finally, Marshall argues that the doctrine of equitable estoppel prevents the Church from asserting its limitations defense because its actions prevented him from discovering his injury and its cause. 
I wrote here last year about the chastising phone call I received from Doug Bischoff, an associate pastor at Houston's First Baptist Church, the church in the lawsuit above. Doug called me to express disapproval of our SNAP child sex abuse awareness event at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting held in Houston in 2013. Senior Pastor Gregg Matte was the President of the SBC Pastors' Conference that preceded the annual meeting.

After the phone call from Doug, my husband met first just with Doug, and then a couple of weeks later with Doug and Gregg Matte. I wrote about this meeting here. They were joined in that meeting by Charles PoorMinister of Counseling Emeritus & Staff Liaison to Deacons. Charles Poor is the same minister who is mentioned in the lawsuit Marshall v. First Baptist Church of Houston. The lawsuit states that in 1989 the child sexual assault victim "told Ministers Johnnie Deurwyn, Charles Poor, and Felix Wagner of the alleged sexual assault, and these individuals, likewise, failed to report the incident."
A few months ago, I wrote about being chastised as an abuse advocate by a pastor at our church at the time, Houston's First Baptist Church.  Someone at Houston's First Baptist, Prestonwood Baptist, or the executive staff of the SBC called the Houston police about our plans to hold an awareness event outside the 2013 annual meeting at the George R. Brown convention center in Houston. After this, my husband requested a meeting at HFBC with head pastor Gregg Matte. They were joined by Doug Bischoff, the pastor that called to chastise me, and a deacon. Before that meeting, Gregg Matte told my husband that he didn't want anything said in the meeting "to end up on a blog." My husband told them all in that meeting, that they should have no problem having cameras there recording every word. Why the secrecy? Why would they not want the whole world to know that they will not stand for child sexual abuse being covered up? Or do they want the darkness and silence surrounding child sex abuse in the church to continue, like Paige Patterson encourages by his comments?

I never received a phone call or email from Gregg Matte. I only have my impressions of his meeting with my husband to go on. While Gregg Matte did express outrage over child sexual abuse, it seems there was a lot of outrage over protecting the image of Houston's First Baptist after this story appeared in the Associated Baptist Press.
The alleged perpetrator of child sex assault cited in the lawsuit is Steve Roddy, a former associate minister of music at Houston's First Baptist Church.

Stephen Roddy is the founder and director of the Houston's Children Chorus, which he founded in 1989. Is this the same Steve Roddy that is named in the lawsuit?
Prior to the founding of the Houston Children’s Chorus, Mr. Roddy served as organist / music associate at First Baptist Church of Houston, First Presbyterian Church, St. Luke’s Methodist Church, as well as Tallowood Baptist Church. He most recently served for ten years as Director of Music at Grace Presbyterian Church of Houston.
Mr. Roddy is a native of Dayton, Ohio and Memphis, Tennessee and  is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He is currently President of the Houston Chapter of Choristers Guild. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas Foundation for the Arts and on the Board of Directors for the Center for Christian Music Studies at Baylor University. He is also on the advisory Board for the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and Houston Masterworks Chorus.
Stephen Roddy is listed here as the Director of Traditional Worship at Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston.

How many other kids may have been harmed in the years since the cries for help went ignored by the pastors at Houston's First Baptist Church? In the June 2013 meeting with my husband, was Gregg Matte aware of the lawsuit against his church alleging child sexual assault by former minister Steve Roddy and the failure to report this abuse by several other ministers? Charles Poor is named in this lawsuit. He sat there in that meeting with my husband hearing how Doug Bischoff had come to the conclusion after talking to me and my husband that it was best that I "step down from teaching" 6th grade girls Bible study at the church. Doug had told my husband that he "had to watch out for the kids." That's the reason he gave for thinking it was best for me to step down, given my volunteer service with SNAP as an advocate for survivors of sex abuse.

From my personal experience with pastors that cover up child sex abuse in their churches, they have no shame.

God help us.

The light of truth and knowledge is the greatest tool to protect kids.

Update 10/9/14:


I'm just waiting in anticipation for the other victim(s) of at least one other former Second Baptist "minister" to file a lawsuit. That minister is still walking free with access to other potential victims.

To his known alleged victim... it was not your fault and you have nothing for which to be ashamed. Do you want what allegedly happened to you to happen to someone else? Yes, you were a victim, but now you're a survivor, and you have the power to stop this man's alleged but renowned cycle of abuse.

To your parents, who already filed the police reports (a huge first step), please think about all the other possible past and now potential future victims still out there. If you don't want to follow through for your son's sake, please do it for THEM! You can't undo what was allegedly done to your son. You can make a difference in the life of other young men. The more time that passes, the weaker your case becomes and the more potential there becomes for there to be even more victims.

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.
Anonymous said…
The consequences for Reece Marshall in the court case you mention lasted the rest of his sadly short life which ended at age 30:

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