Accused Mo. pastor faces new charges
Additional charges alleging sex crimes by Pastor Travis Smith come as the Southern Baptist Convention takes a stronger stand against child abuse.
By Bob Allen
A Southern Baptist pastor in Missouri awaiting trial for alleged sex crimes now faces additional charges filed June 10.
Local media report that the Moniteau County prosecutor filed new charges of statutory rape and statutory sodomy against 42-year-old Travis Smith for alleged incidents in 1998 and 1999 involving a female aged 14 to 15 at the time.
Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stover, Mo., now faces a total of six felony counts ranging from forcible rape to sexual abuse. A preliminary hearing is scheduled Monday, June 17, for the new Class C felony charges, which are punishable by up to seven years in prison.
The new charges coincide with this week’s passage of a Southern Baptist Convention resolution calling on churches to take a firm stand on protecting children from abuse. Early reviews of the statement were mixed.
Brent Detwiler, a blogger following a high-profile lawsuit that in part prompted the SBC resolution, called it “a watershed moment” showing that awareness of the covering up of sex abuse in churches in on the rise.
Christa Brown, a victims’ advocate who has long called for Southern Baptists to implement formal safeguards for reporting and preventing abuse, termed this year’s convention “another year of Baptist do-nothingness,” noting that the resolution promises victims nothing more than prayer.
Pam Palmer, the mother of a plaintiff in the lawsuit, viewed it as “a promising start,” but “not the end of the problems we face.”
Stover Baptist Church has received criticism for retaining Smith as pastor while charges against him are pending. He was acquitted of similar crimes by a jury in 2011.
Lamine Baptist Association voted the church out of membership in April, but the stated reason was non-participation, not allegations against the pastor.
CBS affiliate KRCG television in Columbia/Jefferson City, Mo., quoted an anonymous source saying that the association’s leaders made a decision four years ago to bar Smith from an annual children’s summer camp.
Stover Baptist Church was not mentioned during proceedings of the June 11-12 SBC annual meeting in Houston, but one motion referred to the SBC Executive Committee requests action against a church in Texas for supporting its local chapter of Planned Parenthood.
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