The daughter of a pastor with the Southern Baptist Convention has filed a lawsuit against the megachurch and its seminary, alleging that they failed to protect her and other children who were victims of abuse at the hands of the church leader employed by the organization. On Friday, Hannah Kate Williams filed a lawsuit against SBC and its seminary, accusing them of inaction against her father, James Ray Williams, a pastor with the church.
"Imagine being told that the more the sexual abuse hurts, the more pleased God is," Williams told WLBT 3. "And so it's very extensive, torturous type of abuse that not only I but my siblings experienced as well."
Williams said that her father began physically abusing her when she was just four years old and started sexually abusing her when she was eight. The pastor, who she called her "abuser," would "baptize" her through means of waterboarding, a brutal practice in which an interrogator straps a person to a board and places a wet rag on the person's mouth and pours water through it to induce controlled drowning, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported.
SBC Praised Instead of Punished Pastor's Actions
Williams said that when she asked the Southern Baptist Convention church leaders for help, they praised her father's behavior instead of punishing him for the alleged abuse. She admitted that she expected SBC to "embrace" her for "doing the right thing for telling the truth," but instead, she was "harassed," "threatened," and "told you are an enemy of God and you are destroying the domination that you've only ever known."
Williams is now 27 years old but the recent Kentucky state law extends the statute of limitations for child abuse survivors. The law also requires the actual complaint to be sealed, but the pastor's daughter's lawyer filed to have it unsealed on Friday.
Southern Baptist Convention Caught in the Middle of Controversy
The lawsuit alleges that the Pastor Williams "engaged in unlawful, harmful, and offensive sexual conduct and physical abuse." It also said that the pastor had "had access to countless children in his multiple positions working for" the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, accusing the church of "collective failure to act to protect" Williams, her siblings, and other child victims of the pastor, calling it "grossly negligent."
Williams added that when the church became fully aware of the abuse of her father, it "blamed the victim," "actively encouraged animus" toward her and "weaponized the spread of lies and vitriol" against her to the point that she required "police protection."
Williams is not the only victim of the many abuses under the SBC leadership. According to Reuters, a new internal report released on Sunday revealed just how for decades, complaints of sex abuse by pastors and employees at Southern Baptist Convention had been swept under the rug and covered up by top clergy. The nearly 300-page report recounts how these complaints were kept as "closely guarded secrets" to avoid liability.
The report said that victims were routinely "ignored" and "disbelieved," as with the case of Williams. Church leaders also covered up accusations by allowing the accused clergy members to remain in their positions of authority. The chairman of Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee said they were "grieved" by the findings of the year-long investigation.
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