Guidepost must unseal documents in case of former SBC president accused of abuse, judge rules

Johnny Hunt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, preaches at Hiland Park Baptist Church in Florida on January 15, 2023.
Johnny Hunt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, preaches at Hiland Park Baptist Church in Florida on January 15, 2023. | Screenshot: Hiland Park Baptist Church

Guidepost Solutions, an independent researcher, must unseal documents in a legal case involving former Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt, a judge has ruled. This case is one of over two dozen against the SBC or its entities, focusing on Guidepost’s report on the alleged mishandling of sexual abuse allegations.

Judge Jeffery Frensley at the Middle Tennessee office of the U.S. District Court has ordered Guidepost to produce records of interviews with Hunt’s alleged victim, Baptist News Global reported, saying this includes audio recordings, a private journal, summary documents, text messages and interview notes.

The judge noted that names in these materials are redacted, diminishing privacy concerns.

Guidepost had sought to keep these records sealed, arguing that unsealing, even redacted documents, could breach its contract with the SBC and further harm the alleged victim. However, the judge ruled that four previously sealed documents must be unsealed.

Hunt, named in the 2022 Guidepost report, faced accusations of sexually assaulting a woman at a beach condo. Although admitting to the encounter, Hunt disputes its portrayal in the report and denies any abuse.

After his removal as executive vice president of the SBC North American Mission Board, a group of pastors reviewed his case and supported his return to ministry, despite opposition from the current SBC president and others.

In March, Hunt filed a defamation lawsuit against the SBC, its Executive Committee and Guidepost Solutions. The case has seen 80 entries in its docket over eight months.

Guidepost’s brief against disclosure graphically details the accusations against Hunt, alleging he groomed and sexually assaulted the woman in 2010. It also describes attempts to “gaslight” the victim and her husband, involving counseling by Roy Blankenship, an unlicensed counselor at Hunt’s church.

Hunt’s response to Guidepost’s sealing efforts claims the redacted information contradicts allegations against him. He asserts that audio recordings and journal entries provided to Guidepost do not mention any sexual assault by him. Guidepost, however, contends that the couple was instructed not to discuss Hunt’s actions and to focus only on marital issues in their journal.

The unsealed documents also reveal that the woman alleging assault by Hunt is represented by Boz Tchividjian, a prominent attorney in cases of sexual abuse in religious settings and grandson of the late evangelist Billy Graham. Tchividjian is known for his work with GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment).

Hunt’s lawsuit describes the incident as a “brief, inappropriate, extramarital encounter with a married woman.”

“At most, the encounter lasted only a few minutes, and it involved only kissing and some awkward fondling,” the lawsuit states. “This was a private failing by Pastor Johnny and the woman involved, and the story should have ended there. But it didn’t.”

Hunt’s attorneys argue that naming him in the Guidepost report was a “strategic decision to deflect attention from the SBC's historical failure to take aggressive steps to respond to reports of child sex abuse and other sex crimes in its past.”

The lawsuit asserts that Hunt “was named because the woman with whom he had the brief, extramarital encounter in 2010 had disclosed that encounter to the Guidepost investigators.”

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