Before he became a leading voice for conservative causes on Capitol Hill, U.S. Senator James Lankford spent more than a decade as the director of youth programming at the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, a sprawling campground about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City that attracts more than 50,000 campers in grades six through 12 each year.
The Republican lawmaker’s tenure at the camp is a prominent feature of his political profile, noted in the first paragraph of his official Senate biography. That experience is also coming under renewed scrutiny as the Southern Baptist Convention, which is affiliated with the group that owns the camp, faces a reckoning over its handling of sexual abuse cases.
In 2009, while Lankford worked at the camp, the family of a 13-year-old girl sued a 15-year-old boy who was alleged to have had sex with her at the camp. Lankford, who was not in Congress at the time, is not alleged to have had any direct knowledge of the alleged assault, has not been accused of any wrongdoing and was not a defendant in the lawsuit, which was settled for an undisclosed amount before it was scheduled to go to trial.
But in a 2010 deposition in the case, given a week after he was elected to his first term in the U.S. House, Lankford testified that he believed a 13-year-old could consent to sex.