Blue Shirt Coalition
What is this All About?
On December 22, 2021, news broke in Danville, Illinois, that former principal of First Baptist Christian School--Robert Lazzell--was charged with 4 counts of Criminal Sexual Assault against a victim under the age of 18. It would later be revealed that his alleged crimes were against a former student at First Baptist, and that much of the abuse occurred on school property. Unfortunately, after that initial article the local news refused to cover the case for any of the subsequent hearings. More than a year has gone by since then, and the case remains tied up in the courts.
While the legal system grinds along slowly and the press turns a blind eye, First Baptist has carried on with business as usual as if it never happened, misrepresenting key details to even its own members so as to avoid any meaningful attempt at accountability or preventing future abuse.
If all that weren't concerning enough, this is not the first time this type of situation has come up with former First Baptist staff. Lazzell is the third prominent former staff member to be charged with sexual crimes against minors since the late 90's. More on this later.
Due to the lack of transparency, the monumental efforts to avoid accountability, and the disturbing trend of First Baptist hiring sexual predators for key staff positions - the Blue Shirt Coalition formed to take a stand for the victims (both those who've come forward, and those who aren't able to) - to bring to light the aspects of policy and organizational culture that enabled and fostered such abuse to take place, to demand justice with the current charges, and to protect current & future students by preventing future abuse through demanding change.
Moving forward, we will be tackling a variety of initiatives designed to help promote a safer and healthier culture at First Baptist, as well as calling on its leadership to make necessary reforms before more abuse occurs. Stay tuned for our next steps! You can also follow along through our Facebook page.
Photo of First Baptist Church
UPDATE: On August 1, 2023, Robert Lazzell plead guilty to one count of Criminal Sexual Assault and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
As a result of this plea deal, his other three charges were dropped by the prosecution. Even with his conviction on record, First Baptist has not even acknowledged the growing concerns being expressed by alumni and former church members. The fight continues to make sure future students and children are safe in their own church and school.