post header

The Vindication of the SBC Churches

How does mainstream media report the facts, yet remain fake news? The recent sex abuse scandal broke by the fourth estate against the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) is a prime example. It's yet another sexual misconduct scandal against the men of God. They make sensational and provocative headlines. The stories are likely factually true. There are many articles covering the story, just one of them is linked here.

The summary of the allegations are simple. Allegations of sexual misconduct have been made against around 250 SBC leaders and volunteers and there are about 700 victims. The allegations range from everything from inappropriate text messages to rape. Obviously this is unacceptable and the perpetrators should be punished.

But what the media is trying to say, and what's patently untrue, is that your kids aren't safe at church. They are implying you should take your kids out of church. Church is run by perverts. But are your kids unsafe at church?  

According to statistics at RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), there are about 57,000 substantiated incidences of sexual violence against children per year in the USA. Only about a fourth of incidences are reported. Extrapolated out, that means about 5.4% of all children suffer sexual violence at some point during childhood, as defined at the first 18 years of life. You can check the RAINN numbers here.

Compare that to what's alleged to have happened over at the SBC. The allegation is of 700 victims over the course of 21 years in a church of 15 million members. We can safely assume that the ratio of adults to children in the SBC mirrors the country at large, meaning the SBC has about 3.75 million children. No doubt the church draws many more children from non-member families into it's youth programs, and including these children in the pool would only make the SBC look better. However it's not easy to estimate these numbers and it's unnecessary to illustrate the principle of fake news at work in the reporting.

Seven hundred kids over the course of 21 years equals about 33 incidents per year on average. Compared to 3.75 million kids, that gives us a ratio of 0.00088%. Over the course of an entire childhood, the ratio is about 0.01584% of children involved in the church are abused by a church leader or volunteer. If you assume that all of these cases are against children (they aren't) and substantiated (they aren't), and the general rule applies that only 1 in 4 cases are reported, the percentage grows to 0.06336%, or roughly 1 child out of every 1,578 children involved in the church.

Compare this to the rates of sexual violence in society at large. There are approximately 57,000 substantiated cases of sexual violence against children, vs. a population of about 75 million children in the USA, for a ratio of 0.076%. Over the course of a childhood, this extrapolates out to a ratio of 1.3% of children are victims of substantiated sexual violence. Since the best estimate are that only 1 in 4 cases are reported, this comes to an average of 5.4% of all children are victims of sexual violence. That's about 1 victim of sexual violence per 18.5 children in the general population.

Now consider the RAINN numbers that show a 5.4% rate of abuse among the general population are limited to sexual violence. Sexual misconduct isn't included in these numbers. The allegations against the SBC include everything from sexual violence all the way down to inappropriate text messages. Your child is over 85 times safer at a SBC church than they are among the general population.

Let's make an apples to apples comparison. Where is your kid safer, at church or at school?

The facts clearly show your child is far safer at an SBC church than they are in a public school. According to a 2004 study commissioned by the Department of Education, about 9.6% of students are victims of some form of sexual misconduct at the hands of teachers. And unlike the RAINN statistics, these numbers cover the same kind of incidents that the SBC leaders are accused of committing. That's 1 child in every 10.4 children. You can read about the study here:

Ask yourself dear reader, would you send your kid anywhere knowing there was a 9.6% they would be the victim of sexual misconduct? That's what you're doing if you send your kids to a public school in the USA.

Let's compare the SBC and public schools to a mundane daily activity, such as driving in a car. The USA averages about 30,000 auto fatalities per year. No one thinks twice about getting into a car, but the fact is in the USA about 1 person per 1000 dies in an auto accident every year, and 1 person in every 133 is injured in an auto accident. By comparison, you're kids are far safer in an SBC church than they are in a car. And your kids are in far more danger in a public school than they are in a car.

That's the real story behind the news. While this behavior isn't acceptable, the statistics are not a condemnation of the SBC but a vindication. Simply put, there is no scandal at the SBC. The church is doing great compared to society in general. The real scandal is that your child is in more danger when at a government-run school, by a factor of 150, than they are at an SBC church run by churchmen. The other scandal is that the media is silent on this danger to our children.

Photo is of First Baptist Church, Augusta, GA, by J. Stephen Conn

contra mundum