Religion

Southern Baptists have a new keynote speaker. A teacher at his church was accused of child abuse

People worship during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday, June 14, 2016, in St. Louis.
People worship during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday, June 14, 2016, in St. Louis. AP Photo

This story has been updated.

The speaker newly slated to give the keynote speech at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Dallas comes from a church that had an allegation of abuse while he was there, court documents show.

Kie Bowman, the pastor of Austin's Hyde Park Baptist Church, will speak at the convention. He replaces Paige Patterson, the former president of Fort Worth's Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who was ousted over allegations he mishandled sexual abuse allegations. Patterson stepped down voluntarily from speaking at the convention on Friday.

A child was injured by a Hyde Park Baptist Church day care worker in 2005, according to Travis County court documents. An Austin court awarded the child's mother $163,562 in damages. The Texas Supreme Court tossed an appeal by the church in 2010.

Per court documents, a teaching assistant saw a teacher, Sue Lowry, knock the child to the ground with her hip. He hit his head on the tile floor. When a teaching assistant reported it to another teacher, the teacher went to the day care center coordinator because she believed this constituted abuse, according to court documents. The coordinator said she had seen Lowry behave this way with other children.

No one called Child Protective Services, so another teaching assistant did, according to court documents.

That same teaching assistant later testified that she'd seen Lowry push a chair out from under a child, throw one on a "naptime mat" so hard that "I saw her body bounce" and force another to drink milk by pinning him against her body and pressing the milk cup against his face.

That same teaching assistant, per court documents, complained about the teacher's behavior but was told by a church school administrator that the "statements did not do any good" because she was the only witness.

In February 2006, after the allegations came to light, Bowman wrote a letter to parents saying that "the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of your children has always been and will always be uppermost in our minds."

Bowman has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The Austin Chronicle investigated the case in 2006. That piece found that parents made complaints about Lowry several times over her 10 years of employment. Three parents asked that their children be transferred out of her class. She was asked twice to sign statements that "the safety of the children is the primary object of my employment."

Anyone with additional information should contact reporter Sarah Smith at ssmith@star-telegram.com

The women say an older church member touched them inappropriately when they were teens, and that church leaders kept it quiet. Now, years later, the man has been convicted on charges of child porn and online solicitation of a minor.

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