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According to dozens of current and former church members, religion experts, and historians interviewed by —plus a review of thousands of pages of court documents—he is part of what some call a deeply embedded culture of misogyny and sexual and physical abuse at one of the nation’s largest churches.
Multiple websites tracking the First Baptist Church of Hammond have identified more than a dozen men with ties to the church—many of whom graduated from its college, Hyles-Anderson, or its annual Pastors’ Schools—who fanned out around the country, preaching at their own churches and racking up a string of arrests and civil lawsuits, including physical abuse of minors, sexual molestation, and rape.
“There are some very good people still there whom I love dearly and who truly have hearts for the Lord but were deceived,” Busby says.
“I grieve for them.” Nevertheless, the story of First Baptist is epic enough to rival the most sordid Old Testament tale.
By the time he took charge of the 44-member Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, in 1952, he was a full-fledged, fire-breathing, stem-winding spellbinder, blessed with a booming preacher’s voice, a savant’s recall of the Bible, and a charisma that could almost magically levitate people from their seats to surrender their lives to the Savior.
Outbursts of anger, an unwillingness to brook criticism, and a penchant for ironfisted control were also part of his repertoire.
It is a culture, past and present members say, enabled by cover-ups and cultlike control.
For example, after Schaap’s conviction, many church members blamed his victim as a temptress.
But Schaap is not simply one of those rogue evangelists who thunders against the evils of forbidden sex while indulging in it himself.And, equally important, to attend the church-owned Hyles-Anderson College a couple of miles away, one of First Baptist’s biggest coffer fillers. Thanks for what you’re making me.” Schaap continued to rub the stick—up and down, up and down—and converse with God, sometimes angrily, sometimes ecstatically, for more than a minute.