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Dan, the real reason they don't create the database is legal liability. Without the Dbase there is no way to pin liability on the national organization (or some other Baptist church with deep pockets) when a church goes wrong.

This stems from the organizational nature of the Baptist Church. Individual churches are autonomous, unlike in the Catholic Church where everything flows from the top. The more they attempt to prevent incidents, the more they will be held to be responsible for preventing them.

This is an outgrowth the the American legal system and has no bearing on the church. If I were their lawyer, I would tell them not to create the Dbase as well.

There may be ways to create the database without incurring legal liability, but it would be very difficult and likely lead to increased liability no matter what. Blame the courts on this one, not the churches.

(In case it matters, I am an Atheist lawyer, ACLU type, not someone with an iron in this fire)

Posted by Jim | August 20, 2008 5:30 PM


It would be nice if they cared more about child welfare than legal liability. They are supposed to be Christians, right?

Posted by keshmeshi | August 20, 2008 6:56 PM

Well, that's the blindingly obvious retort of course. I don't think it adds very much to the discussion though. It is very easy to assert that someone else should pay a cost or assume a burden.

The question is why should they be forced to take on that legal liability? Why, for example, should the money a family gives to a church in Waco be used to pay off a legal judgment against a church in Richmond?

Is it fair to hold church members liable for the actions of pastors they have never met? Is it a good idea to put all the liability in the umbrella organization when even one successful case will bankrupt it? That bankruptcy will mean that it will have to be dissolved. Is that a good result? It will mean lots of transaction costs as a new umbrella organization has to be organized.

I mean, look, you can be a shallow thinker and spout off aphorisms if you want. It does not change the deep implications of the shallow suggestions you make.

If you want to be helpful, think of a way they can make the list and not be subject to extra liability for doing so. I suggest a legislative fix. This sort of issue comes up more often than you would expect.

Many corporations are in a position where they must keep themselves legally blind to problems in order to escape liability. This is to no one's benefit. It keeps pedophiles from being kept track of; it prevents security cameras from being installed in dangerous parking lots; it works in many ways to keep us less safe. It is not the fault of the churches that they are following the same legal rules that are out there making you less safe in the rest of your life.

Posted by Jim | August 20, 2008 9:49 PM

keshmeshi, yes they are a Christian church, and as such accept sinners. In fact you won't be able to find a church that IS NOT full of sinners.

Posted by JR | August 21, 2008 4:16 PM

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