The Washinton Post examines
the fallout from Texas newspaper reporting on sexual abuse by people affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, a report that touched on Arkansas.

A report published in two Texas newspapers this past weekend detailing 20 years of sexual abuse allegations within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has sparked calls for authorities to investigate whether leaders covered up abuse and allowed the accused to continue working in churches.

The investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News found more than 380 clergy and volunteers had been charged with sexual misconduct over two decades, leaving behind more than 700 victims to deal with the aftermath. The stories set off the sort of shock waves in the 15-million-member Southern Baptist Convention that similar blockbuster investigations have been causing ever since the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team exposed abuse in the Catholic Church in 2002.

Sexual abuse allegations have rocked the Catholic Church worldwide, but its hierarchical organization lends itself to somewhat broader accountability (finally) and the ability to make policy changes. The Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination (and particularly strong in the South) is a collection of independent churches.

The Post talks of potential for tougher laws in some states that have short statutes of limitation on abuse and quotes some leading Baptist figures on the need for an independent review.

The reporting by the Houston and San Antonio newspapers includes a searchable database of the criminal cases it found, including five in Arkansas.