A former youth pastor at a prominent Southern Baptist church in Louisiana was sentenced Aug. 8 to 10 years in prison after confessing to sex crimes committed against a 13-year-old girl.
Jonathan Bailey, minister of youth at First Baptist Church in New Orleans for about two years before his arrest in February 2015, pleaded guilty to five counts of molestation of a juvenile, six counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile and a count of obstruction of justice.
Local media reported that Bailey, 35, wept during the hearing. Criminal District Court Judge Robin Pittman said she favored a longer sentence but granted the plea bargain so the victim would not have to testify.
According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the girl’s father said Bailey is facing additional charges in Mississippi.
Bailey, a graduate of Louisiana College and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, passed a criminal background check before joining the staff at First Baptist Church. After his arrest a second unidentified church reportedly contacted New Orleans police saying it fired Bailey about a decade earlier over similar allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a juvenile.
Unlike many faith groups, the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant body, does not have a denomination-wide process for assessing reports about clergy sex abuse. A decade ago SBC officials studied a proposal to establish an independent review board to receive and evaluate reports and a database of clergy credibly accused, confessed or convicted of sexual abuse but determined it was impractical because the denomination’s affiliated congregations are autonomous.
Recently the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests asked SBC officials to, at minimum, create a central “safe place” for Baptist clergy sex abuse survivors to file reports about their alleged perpetrators.
SNAP leaders called it “flat-out cruel” to tell clergy abuse survivors they must go to the church of the accused pastor if they want to report that pastor within the faith community, and warned that with the current practice the next “Spotlight”-style expose of systemic abuse in the Roman Catholic Church could be about Southern Baptists.