RICO lawsuit against SBC Executive Committee dismissed

The headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention located in Nashville, Tennessee.
The headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention located in Nashville, Tennessee. | Baptist Press

A civil lawsuit filed last year against the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee alleging that the church body mishandled abuse allegations has been dismissed.

Candence Finch, Tereasa Flanagan, Sally George, Christopher Juarez, Kelli Mims and James Shannon voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit against the Executive Committee on Monday.

The decision to dismiss comes a month after four congregations were removed as defendants: Fountain Valley Baptist Church of Fountain, Colorado; Faith Baptist Church of Danville, Illinois; Airline Baptist Church of Bossier City, Louisiana; and First Baptist Church of Talladega, Alabama.

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The Christian Post reached out to the SBC for a comment on this development. However, a spokesperson for the denomination did not provide one by press time.

The Executive Committee is an SBC body comprising 86 members who work on behalf of the convention between annual sessions. It oversees financial statements and the distribution of funds for ministries and serves as the trust agency for church properties.

On New Year’s Eve 2023, the plaintiffs filed a complaint against the SBC Executive Committee in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, alleging that the defendants had “maliciously and systematically engaged in covering up and concealing instances of sexual abuse by the church members and employees as a strategy of denying the rights of sexual abuse survivors.”

The lawsuit accused the Executive Committee of violating the Racketeers Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, with the plaintiffs alleging that it “was used as a tool to effectuate Defendant(s) pattern of racketeering and use its influence over the Local Churches.”

In recent years, leaders in the United States’ largest Protestant denomination have been accused of failing to properly handle credible allegation of abuse among pastors and lay leadership.

In 2022, an extensive investigation report from Guidepost Solutions stated that SBC leaders mishandled sexual abuse allegations, engaged in a pattern of intimidation and resisted reforms to make churches safer largely to avoid legal liability for the convention. 

The U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the SBC in 2022 regarding the allegations, which the convention vowed to cooperate with.

In March, The Tennessean reported that the DOJ had concluded its investigation and would not file any charges against SBC officials due to an apparent lack of evidence.

Earlier this week, the DOJ filed a charge against former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary evangelism professor and provost Matthew Queen, accusing him of falsifying records related to their investigation of the SBC.

“Queen attempted to interfere with a federal grand jury investigation by creating false notes in an attempt to corroborate his own lies," said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams in a statement.

"The criminal obstruction charge announced today should exemplify the seriousness of attempts by any individual to manipulate or interfere with a federal investigation."

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