The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention, a major Protestant denomination with deep ties to the conservative movement, over allegations of sexual abuse, church leaders announced Friday.
If you hadn't heard about it, that may be because Republicans — who've baselessly attacked LGBTQ people as "groomers" — have largely been silent about accusations by hundreds of women and children alleging SBC officials or employees sexually abused them.
It’s a political inconvenience for the GOP.
In May, SBC leadership released findings from an investigation conducted by an outside firm that accused top church officials of covering up reports of sexual abuse for two decades. And the Justice Department’s probe is likely to uncover more damning information about the church's handling of the allegations.
The timing couldn’t be worse for the Christian nationalist movement, which believes the U.S. is divinely favored by God and wants the country’s laws to be based on Christianity. Several church leaders have publicly promoted Christian nationalism and MAGA ideals within the SBC, the second-largest Christian denomination in the country.
The GOP writ large is almost uniformly invested in a Christian nationalist agenda, with some of its most prominent members beginning to openly embrace the movement, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano. And the conservative-tilted Supreme Court has issued multiple rulings that serve Christian nationalist interests.
As I wrote last month, though, cascading sexual abuse controversies undermine the argument that conservative Christianity is pure and worthy of dominion over the rest of the country. Time and again, some of its practitioners reveal themselves to be more prone to perversion than the people they condemn. The SBC cases are just the latest example.
Keep an eye on this case. And keep an eye on the GOP’s response as it unfolds.