The Need for Churches to Consider Background Checks Grows

By Michael Klazema on 9/13/2018

Since 2002's bombshell report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, diocese around the nation have grappled with the implications and struggled to respond. In early August, Pennsylvania's Attorney General released the state's report on its own investigation into church abuse with shocking results. The report details a shocking array of abuses affecting hundreds of children over nearly seven decades. Since its release, shockwaves have reverberated up to the highest levels of the church. While the Catholic Church grapples internally and externally with how to respond, church leaders across denominations face concerns about how to protect their congregations.

Sexual abuse is not the only potential danger facing churches and other religious organizations; in other cases, the damages haven't affected people, but property. According to a report by CBS affiliate WLNY in New York, a contractor stole nearly $120,000 from a local church that believed it was paying for important construction work. Instead, the contractor—who was hired without a background check—took the money for personal use. He has since been arrested and arraigned on grand larceny charges, but the church has little current recourse to recoup the lost funds. 

In an editorial piece by the National Catholic Reporter, the number-one suggestion was to implement a thorough background check. An article in the Omaha World-Herald notes Catholic organizations moved to implement their own background check procedures after the 2002 Globe report. The Pennsylvania report identified a few priests who had been actively engaged in recent abuse. Robust policies were not fully implemented or did not go far enough to combat the problem. Strengthening these procedures and examining applicants more thoroughly would be a smart choice. 

Such background reports could be similar to the far-reaching reports can generate. While a background check cannot anticipate when someone with no existing record will commit a crime, they can provide valuable insight into the individuals volunteering for or applying for work with a church. Considering how frequently churches rely on volunteers on a weekly basis, especially to help supervise the children of parents in the congregation, this simple step should be the first line of defense against predators.

As the controversy surrounding the Catholic Church and its response to widespread sexual abuse problems continues, other church leaders should use the opportunity to look carefully at their own staffing practices. To facilitate due diligence and provide religious organizations with a framework they can trust, delivers solutions for churches that cover all the important areas. From checking the sex offender registry to providing criminal history reports on prospective staff or volunteers, these tools offer valuable information that can help to protect an entire church family. 

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