Former Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt allegedly sexually assaulted another pastor’s wife and then told her he wanted to have sex with her three times a day while he was on a beach vacation with his family in Panama City, Florida.
International investigations firm Guidepost Solutions has called the allegation “credible,” though Hunt, who served as SBC president from 2008 to 2010, has denied it.
The allegation was among the findings highlighted by Guidepost Solutions in a 288-page report published Sunday following a monthslong, independent investigation by the firm into allegations that SBC leaders intimidated whistleblowers and exonerated churches with credible claims of negligence of sexual abuse victims.
Investigators found that some leaders within America’s largest Protestant denomination, which has some 14 million adherents, mishandled sexual abuse allegations, mistreated victims and advocates, engaged in an abusive pattern of intimidation and repeatedly resisted reforms aimed at making their churches safer largely to avoid liability.
And the allegation against Hunt, which reportedly happened in 2010, features prominently among the many sins cited against the denomination’s leadership in the report.
The victim and her husband, who are both 24 years younger than the 69-year-old Hunt, told investigators that at the June 2010 SBC annual meeting held in Orlando that year, Hunt invited them to spend time with him and his family at Panama City Beach while he was on sabbatical for the month of July.
As the couple had looked up to Hunt as a “spiritual father figure,” they obliged by taking a short vacation to the beach, where they spent some time with the former SBC president and his family but stayed at a separate location than the Hunts.
“At one point,” according to investigators, “Dr. Hunt kissed Survivor on the forehead and made inappropriate comments about Survivor’s figure.”
After the trip ended, the younger pastor said his wife wanted to return to the beach to hear late college football coach Bobby Bowden speak at Highland Park Baptist Church in Panama City Beach. He then asked Hunt about securing a condo for his wife to cover the extra time she wanted at the beach and “Hunt gave him a phone number for a condo owner in his complex.”
“Pastor called, and the owner told him to book directly on VRBO. Unbeknownst to Pastor, it was the unit next door to Dr. Hunt’s condo,” investigators said.
July 24, 2010, the younger pastor asked Hunt to “keep an eye out” for his wife as she traveled to the beach.
“Pastor and Survivor said they trusted Dr. Hunt and were under the impression that Dr. Hunt and his family would be at the beach, and Survivor could contact them if she needed anything,” investigators noted.
The next day, the pastor’s wife drove to the condo at the beach, and when she arrived she texted a photo of the ocean to Hunt and her husband to let them know she had arrived.
“Dr. Hunt texted her asking what condo she was in. She responded with the number, and he replied that it was right next door and told her to step out on the balcony. Survivor was surprised that the condo her husband had rented was right next door to the Hunts’ condo,” investigator’s explained.
Hunt and the pastor’s wife eventually talked from their balconies and he brought her a bottle of water before “shifting the conversation from ministry to flattery about her appearance, her clothing, and her perfume.”
Hunt later noted that he had become hot from the sun on his balcony and the pastor’s wife invited him to come sit in the shade on her balcony. To do that, however, the pastor’s wife had to let Hunt inside her condo because there was no way to move from one balcony to the next. She said when she made the invitation she assumed that Hunt’s wife and family were inside his condo.
“Dr. Hunt came into Survivor’s condo and they continued their conversation on Survivor’s balcony. Dr. Hunt asked her if she felt safe and she said that she did. She did not know why he would ask such a question. He then told the Survivor to put her feet on his knee; he touched them while commenting on their beauty and size. At one point, he remarked that he was uncomfortable sitting outside because he didn’t want to be seen so he suggested that they go inside,” the report said,
Once they were inside, Hunt pounced on her after brief and awkward small talk that the pastor’s wife had found unusual.
“Dr. Hunt then moved towards Survivor and proceeded to pull her shorts down, turn her over and stare at her bare backside. He made sexual remarks about her body and things he had imagined about her. During this time, Survivor felt frozen. Survivor said these were some of the longest moments of her life,” the report said.
“She mustered the courage to ask him could she turn back over, and Dr. Hunt said yes. When she turned back over, she began to pull up her shorts. Dr. Hunt then pinned her to the couch, got on top of her, and pulled up her shirt. He sexually assaulted her with his hands and mouth,” the report continued before noting that Hunt allegedly stopped at this point and stood up.
The pastor’s wife reportedly told Hunt she didn’t want him to ruin his ministry and he said the same for her but he couldn’t help himself.
“[Hunt] then forced himself on her again by groping her, trying to pull her shirt down, and violently kissing her. Survivor did not reciprocate, but rather stood eyes open and very stiff, hoping he would just stop and leave. He finally stopped and left. She locked the door behind him and felt very shocked, confused, and violated,” the report said.
“After he left, she tried to unpack her suitcase, and she fought back tears and felt overwhelmed by the shame of Dr. Hunt’s sexual assault. Later Dr. Hunt texted her about coming out on the balcony. She wanted to sort out what had just happened, so she went outside. In a brief exchange, Dr. Hunt stated that he would like to have sex with her three times a day,” investigators wrote. “Survivor could not believe what she was hearing and could not get back inside her own condo quickly enough.”
Investigators said the pastor’s wife reported that she tried to confront Hunt about his actions on July 27, 2010, but was met by Hunt’s wife, who asked her to leave and “stop talking to her husband.”
After the confrontation with Hunt’s wife, she called her husband who advised her to come home.
The couple later tried to have the sexual assault addressed by the church but said they were silenced by Hunt and Roy Blankenship, a counseling pastor at First Baptist Church Woodstock in Georgia at a meeting arranged by Hunt on Aug. 2, 2010.
“During the discussion, the Pastor learned for the first time that Dr. Hunt had sexually assaulted Survivor. Dr. Hunt mischaracterized his assault of Survivor, admitting to a light kiss, touching the Survivor’s breasts over the clothes, and trying to pull her shorts down. He stated that ‘thank God I didn’t consummate the relationship,’” the report said.
“Survivor and Pastor stated that Mr. Blankenship said that in his expert opinion an inappropriate relationship had developed, and that based on his information it was consensual. Survivor states that at the time she believed that, even though she did not consent to what Dr. Hunt did to her, she was made to feel it was consensual because she did not fight back. When Survivor attempted to provide her version of the event, both Dr. Hunt and Mr. Blankenship spoke over her,” the report noted.
When Guidepost Solutions investigators interviewed Blankenship about what happened, they said, “Mr. Blankenship stated that he did not think he received the full story. He confirmed that, at the time, his assessment was based on what Dr. Hunt told him and that the sexual contact was consensual.”
In their interview with Hunt, however, the former SBC leader said he had “no contact whatsoever” with the pastor’s wife.
“He also restated that it was not true that he was on the balcony or in the condo. When asked specifically about whether he kissed her, pulled at her shorts, or fondled her, he said no. He denied sexualized comments about her appearance, panties, tan lines, or perfume,” investigator’s said.
They further noted, “Throughout the interview, Dr. Hunt remained very calm, expressed little to no emotion, did not get upset, did not raise his voice, or express outrage at the allegations.”
“We included this sexual assault allegation in the report because the investigators found Pastor and Survivor to be credible; their report was corroborated in part by Mr. [Roy] Blankenship and three other credible witnesses; and Dr. Hunt, while denying physical contact, does acknowledge that he had interactions with the Survivor, including on the condo balcony during the relevant time period,” they added. “The investigators did not find Dr. Hunt to be credible in their interviews with him.”