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After Gateway Church Scandal, Texas Lawmakers Gear Up For Tougher Sex Crime Laws

Texas lawmakers are pushing to expand statutes of limitation on sexual abuse cases and increase penalties for sex crimes involving children, just after the former senior pastor of the Gateway Church resigned amid sexual abuse allegations.

Two weeks ago, Robert Morris, the senior pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, resigned following accusations by Cindy Clemishire that he abused her when she was 12-years-old in the 1980’s.

“These actions demand public exposure, should never be tolerated, and any person who harms a child should and must be held accountable,” said state Rep. Nate Schatzline, R-Fort Worth, whose district neighbors Southlake. “I will continue to speak the truth regardless of who it affects, and I will continue to advocate for legislation that protects children from abuse.”

State Rep. Jeff Leach, a conservative Christian and chair of the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee, plans to hold hearings and consider all remedies, including changing statutes of limitation for such cases.

“The Texas Legislature must improve our laws protecting and ensuring justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse, including substantially strengthening our criminal and civil statutes of limitation,” Leach said. “We should be leading in this area. As the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a longtime advocate for victims and their families, I intend to continue to do just that.”

Rep. Steve Toth also voiced concerns on the news and said he will work to increase penalties in sex crime cases against children and mandatory reporting by church board members. Currently, board members are not legally bound to report if they know about a sex crime against a child within the church.

“We want to bring total clarity to the fact that you do this stuff, you cover up, and there’s going to be criminal and civil consequences. The civil consequences can include lawsuits of hundreds of thousands of dollars and wipe you out,” Toth told WFAA.

The next Texas legislative session begins in January, where these issues are expected to be addressed.

Morris, 62, founded Gateway Church in 2000, and is one of the biggest churches in the state and in the U.S. He was a member of Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board during the 2016 presidential campaign and supported conservative initiatives.

Both Toth and Schatzline are Christian conservative Republicans who were censured by their fellow party members for campaigning against other Republican incumbents. 

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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