Former Houston pastor accused of molesting teen repeatedly for 5 years

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- 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 teen for years.

Stephen Bratton is accused of subjecting the victim to inappropriate touching that escalated to "sexual intercourse multiple times a day or several times a week" from 2013 to 2018, according to Thomas Gilliland, with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

Court records show Bratton, 43, posted a $50,000 bond Saturday.

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 the newspaper 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 bill that would have abolished abortions in Texas and threatened to punish women who undergo the procedure with homicide. 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."

When ABC13 Eyewitness News reached out to Grace Family Baptist Church about the incident, they released the following statement:

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 16. 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 16. As the weeks followed, the pastors and others close to the case 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.

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 19. 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.


The Associated Press Contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2019 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.