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Southern Baptist Church says it’s under federal investigation following report on sexual abuse allegations

FILE – A cross and Bible sculpture stand outside the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., on May 24, 2022. The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention said Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, that several of the denomination’s major entities are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. (AP Photo/Holly Meyer, File)

The Justice Department (DOJ) has opened a federal investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the second-largest Christian domination in the country, following a report that alleged church leaders ignored survivors of sexual abuse.

The DOJ investigation will include “multiple entities” of the SBC, and each entity intends to cooperate with the investigation, according to a statement from the SBC.

The investigation comes a few months after the SBC released an investigative report from an outside party that detailed how leaders stonewalled survivors for almost two decades.

Although people reported sexual abuse repeatedly to the SBC’s executive committee, they faced “resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility” from some members, according to the report conducted by Guidepost Solutions.

The report concluded a seven-month independent investigation after church leaders were pressed at a national meeting to launch an investigation.

The church said that the SBC’s executive committee released a statement on Friday, claiming that SBC has demonstrated a “firm conviction” to address past issues and are implementing measures to ensure the issues do not happen again in the future.

It states that the independent, transparent investigation the SBC conducted shows its commitment.

The SBC released the names of the accused pastors and church-affiliated personnel a few days after the report came out. The database of information consists of more than 700 entries from 2000 to 2019.

“Our commitment to cooperate with the Department of Justice is born from our demonstrated commitment to transparently address the scourge of sexual abuse,” the statement reads.

The leaders said they recognize their work is not finished, and are continuing through the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force.

A DOJ spokesperson declined to comment.

Updated Aug. 16, 1:22 p.m.

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