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, who resigned from Grace Family Baptist Church in Cypress Station last month, was charged Friday with continuous sexual abuse of a child.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bratton 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.”