A former pastor of a Southern Baptist church in north Harris County has been charged with molesting a teenage relative, sometimes multiple times a day, over the course of several years.
via Houston Chronicle:
Stephen Bratton, who resigned from Grace Family Baptist Church in Cypress Station last month, was charged Friday with continuous sexual abuse of a child, Senior Deputy Thomas Gilliland said Saturday. The 43-year-old is accused of inappropriate touching that escalated to “sexual intercourse multiple times a day or several times a week” from 2013 to 2015, Gilliland said.
He posted $50,000 bond and has been released from the Harris County Jail.
Bratton has been an outspoken pro-life advocate, making national news recently for supporting a failed bill that would have made it possible to criminally charge women who terminate their pregnancies.
Bratton came forward to his wife about the abuse on May 15, according to a probable cause document. She called his co-pastors at 4 a.m. to organize a meeting, while Bratton contacted them later that day to say he had “sinned in grievous ways.”
“It was criminal,” said David Shiflet, pastor of the Grace Family Baptist Church in Conroe. “That’s when he came clean.”
The criminal investigation began on May 16 after Bratton allegedly confessed to three Southern Baptist clergy members that he abused the child. Two of Bratton’s co-pastors, Aaron Wright and Erin Frye, met with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office at their church on Bammel Westfield Road that same day, while Shiflet said he referred the complaint to the Department of Family Protective Services.
Wright said he initially believed that Bratton could be arrested the same day as his report, but soon realized the law enforcement investigation would take time. He and his co-pastor were eager to do right by the accuser.
Parishioners were made aware of the allegation during Sunday services on May 19, Shiflet said, adding that he also informed his Montgomery County flock of the claim. The two churches are not affiliated, but Shiflet said several members of his parish know Bratton. There are no other known victims, according to church leaders.
Bratton has been excommunicated and is no longer receiving a salary from the church, Wright said.
“This person’s life is in such a contradiction to the faith that we see no evidence that they are a Christian,” he continued.
Bratton worked at the Old River Baptist Church in Dayton from 2004 to 2007. He now lists himself as unemployed on his LinkedIn profile.
The pastors declined to talk about Bratton’s family other than to say he was no longer living with his wife and their seven children. Court records show an emergency protection order was granted in the case.
Shiflet has known Bratton for more than a decade after working together at another parish, he said.
“I had no intention of protecting him or anything like that. I certainly wanted to help his family, not him,” Shiflet said. “It’s heartbreaking for us who have known him.”
Bratton recently testified in support of failed House Bill 896 that would have abolished abortions in Texas and opened up the possibility that prosecutors could charge a woman who undergoes the procedure with criminal homicide. The offense can be punishable by the death penalty under current Texas law.
“Whoever authorizes or commits murder is guilty,” Bratton said in an April 8 hearing. “They’re guilty already in a court that is far more weighty than what is here in Texas.”
The charges follow this week’s Southern Baptist Convention annual gathering in Birmingham, Alabama, where religious leaders called for churches to toughen screening processes of pastors and ensure the treatment of sex abuse survivors. The meeting led to the passing of several reforms aimed at preventing child sex abuse in the 47,000 autonomous churches.
An investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio-Express News found more than 700 people — mostly children — had been victimized by hundreds of Southern Baptist church leaders since 1998.
“As the weeks followed the pastors continued to make contact with the detective because they desired the case to be brought forward so that justice would be served,” Wright said in a written statement. “Once the case began we continued to cooperate fully throughout the investigation.”
We honestly can’t say we’re surprised by any of this. Lock this man up for LIFE.