HOUSTON (AP) — A former Southern Baptist pastor who supported legislation in Texas that would have criminalized abortions has been arrested on charges of child sex abuse, accused of repeatedly molesting a teenage relative over the course of two years.
Stephen Bratton is accused of subjecting the relative to inappropriate touching that escalated to "sexual intercourse multiple times a day or several times a week" from 2013 to 2015, according to Thomas Gilliland, a spokesman with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
Court records show Bratton, 43, posted a $50,000 bond Saturday, our Houston sister-station KHOU reports.
Bratton told his wife about the abuse in May, and admitted to his co-pastors at Grace Family Baptist Church that same day that he had "sinned in grievous ways," according to court documents.
It isn't clear whether Bratton has an attorney who can comment on his behalf. The Associated Press couldn't locate a phone number for him Sunday.
Southern Baptist church leaders last week outlined a plan to address sex abuse in the largest U.S. protestant denomination. Aaron Wright, another pastor at the Grace Family Baptist Church, told KHOU that Bratton has been excommunicated.
"This person's life is in such a contradiction to the faith that we see no evidence that they are a Christian," Wright said.
Bratton, who is a father of seven, was outspoken in support of a Texas bill that would have abolished abortions and charged women with homicide if they underwent the procedure. That level of offense can be punishable by the death penalty under Texas law.
Bratton publicly testified in support of the bill in April. The measure never got a vote.
"Whoever authorizes or commits murder is guilty," Bratton said at the hearing. "They're guilty already in a court that is far more weighty than what is here in Texas."
Grace Family Baptist gave KHOU the following statement about Bratton's arrest:
"We are aware of the situation regarding Stephen Bratton and the charges that have been filed against him and of his arrest on June 14th.
Stephen Bratton confessed to Erin Frye and Aaron Wright, both pastors at the church, of sexually abusing a minor in an ongoing way for a number of years on May 16th. This is the first time this had been brought to the attention of the pastors.
This activity is wrong according to Biblical and civil law and the church condemns the behavior as abhorrent.
The elders immediately filed a police report with Harris County Sheriff’s Office the same day, May 16th. 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. Once the case began we continued to cooperate fully throughout the investigation.
The elders have called upon Stephen Bratton to accept the full responsibility for his actions and to place himself at the mercy of the criminal justice system.
Stephen is no longer in a position of leadership at the church and is no longer receiving a salary.
Stephen Bratton was also excommunicated by the church the following Sunday, May 19th. Therefore he is no longer a member of the church.
Currently we are working to meet the needs of the family and the victim.
We have deep grief for the victim and have sought to respect the privacy and identity of the victim throughout this process."
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