Texas House of Representatives Passes Bill Protecting Churches That Disclose Credible Sexual Abuse Allegations

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The Texas House of Representatives has passed a bill shielding from civil liability churches that disclose credible sexual abuse allegations — but the bill has only 17 days to pass the Senate this legislative session.

Representatives May 8 unanimously approved House Bill 4345, assigned today (May 10) to the Senate State Affairs committee. The House bill would protect charitable organizations, their volunteers and independent contractors from liability when disclosing such information to prospective employers, even when no criminal charges have been filed against the accused. A May 7 amendment extended protection to independent contractors, previously not included.

Southern Baptists at the state and national level initiated the bill, including Ben Wright, chairman of the Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC). He’s hopeful the legislation will pass the Senate before the legislature ends its 2019 session May 27.

“It’s certainly encouraging, the passage, that it was unanimous,” Wright told Baptist Press today. “If we don’t have time this year, we’ll come back in a couple of years when the legislature’s back in session.”

The next regular session begins the second Tuesday in January 2021 for the body that meets every other year.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission helped draft the bill. Wright, pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Cedar Park, Texas, worked with Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, and others to recruit Rep. Scott Sanford to introduce the bill. Sanford has recruited Sen. Joan Huffman, State Affairs Committee chair, to sponsor the bill in the Senate, Sanford’s Austin office told BP.

Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, expressed gratitude for Sanford’s work. Sanford is a former member of the SBTC ethics committee and is executive pastor of Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen.

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Source: Baptist Press