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jwhitlock

Background Child Abuse Clearances For Church Callings

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Starting July 1, 2015 the state of Pennsylvania is requiring child abuse background and security checks for all volunteers who work with children.  Here is a link to a FAQ concerning the law.

 

Historically, PA has had a rather lax attitude towards such checks. With the Penn State Sandusky trial, our esteemed elected "leaders" swung the pendulum all the way to the other side with a law that was written broadly and vaguely enough to raise serious legal questions about how far such background checks need to extend. PA is not the only state that is enacting such measures, but the PA law seems to be the most onerous.

 

Obviously there are already background checks in place for some volunteer organizations, and employees involved with children and youth have been required to get such checks as a matter of employment. However, because of the way this law has been written, it has been determined that any church calling (and this applies to all churches, not just LDS) or volunteer position that works with children or youth will require a background check costing anywhere from $20 to $47.25, depending on whether the individual has lived in the state for 10 years or not. The clearance will be valid for 36 months and then must be renewed.

 

This means that anyone serving in any capacity with Primary (including substitutes), Seminary, or YM/YW will be required to have a state mandated background check before they can be allowed to serve. The law is vague enough that it can be construed even further so that virtually everyone in the ward could be required to have a background check, depending on how children or youth are involved.

 

There's been a great deal of confusion about the law and its impact, but what is clear is that by July 1st, something must be in place for those serving in such callings. It has also raised significant questions about such things as children going to a friends house (parents need security checks?) and other casual social situations where temporary caring for other people's children is involved in some manner.

 

Such is the impact of a poorly written law that was passed as a knee-jerk response to a public child abuse case.

 

I understand there's going to be a letter from the church on the subject read over the pulpit in wards in our state over the next couple of weeks and that the church, along with others, is looking at it from a legal standpoint.

 

In any case, I consider this another example of the ongoing erosion (intended or not) of religious freedom. Along with taxes, the state can start to put increasingly onerous regulations in place (as they already have done with business) that have the direct effect of curtailing religious liberty.

 

It will be interesting to see what happens.

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The BSA has already had in place for some time a requirement that all adult leaders have a criminal background check.

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The BSA has already had in place for some time a requirement that all adult leaders have a criminal background check.

 

Apparently the BSA does its background checks through a third party. Under the new law, it is my understanding that those checks are now invalid and must be re-done through the state mandated agencies.

 

The impact of the law is causing a great deal of confusion because of how vague it is. We've even had some child advocates expressing concern about the effect the law will have on volunteerism, and how it needs some tuning.

 

This is going to have a direct impact on Primary in the church, for instance. If a teacher doesn't show up, you no longer can get just anyone from the ward to fill in. That substitute must have a valid background check in order to be with the children in a class.

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Back in the " Olden Days " , when everyone knew everyone in the ward and all their sins, background checks consisted of backyard fence conversations. Now people are fluid and we know little of their history. I guess every member will have to carry their " papers " ,one of which will be a criminal record check. My question is, is this a solution looking for a problem? Have such checks proven useful in stopping abuse or potential abuse, and how often ?

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In any case, I consider this another example of the ongoing erosion (intended or not) of religious freedom. Along with taxes, the state can start to put increasingly onerous regulations in place (as they already have done with business) that have the direct effect of curtailing religious liberty.

 

It will be interesting to see what happens.

 

What part of LDS religious freedom involves allowing child molestors to have access to children?

 

And you probably didn't know that your State has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

 

Tonie has been removed from the thread.

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What part of LDS religious freedom involves allowing child molestors to have access to children?

And you probably didn't know that your State has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Why do you think we want child molestors to have access to our children?

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I'm all in favor of mandary background checks. I'm a parent. If this would save even one instance of abuse a year it's worth the effort/expense

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What part of LDS religious freedom involves allowing child molestors to have access to children?

 

 

Please don't make idiotic throwaway statements like this, whose only purpose is to slander our religion. They're offensive.

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Back in the " Olden Days " , when everyone knew everyone in the ward and all their sins, background checks consisted of backyard fence conversations. Now people are fluid and we know little of their history. I guess every member will have to carry their " papers " ,one of which will be a criminal record check. My question is, is this a solution looking for a problem? Have such checks proven useful in stopping abuse or potential abuse, and how often ?

 

I've never found that increased regulation and paperwork stops anything. Church procedures, if followed as instructed, and local leaders' knowledge of who they're calling are probably already more effective in curtailing potential abuse than such state requirements. I see the negative impact far outweighing the positive that might be gained by such measures.

 

For instance, there will be a dampening effect on volunteerism overall. The state is also not known for being particularly quick about processing such checks, either. They're initially calling for 8 weeks to get the clearance done, but I know of cases where paperwork gets lost in the system and it's months before it all gets worked out. The major problem with this kind of regulation is that it puts a significant roadblock in place for a lot of good that's being done, and will probably be only marginally successful in eliminating abuse.

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I'm all in favor of mandary background checks. I'm a parent. If this would save even one instance of abuse a year it's worth the effort/expense

 

I disagree. If primacy is given to eliminating abuse at any cost, then taken to its logical conclusion, we will have to shut down every and any situation in which children might be abused.

 

Including at home with parents.

 

Saving "even one instance of abuse" at the high negative cost of mandatory background checks for all volunteers, which would include significantly reducing the benefits for children that come with such volunteerism, and not worth it. There are more effective ways of reducing abuse.  Church procedures, if followed, are a more effective way of doing so.

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I'm all in favor of mandary background checks. I'm a parent. If this would save even one instance of abuse a year it's worth the effort/expense

 

But there really is no evidence at all that background checks prevent even one instance of abuse at church, and it give parents and leaders false comfort that may interfere with their acting on what they see and hear that COULD actually protect.

 

The reason they don't help is that it is estimated that most abusers are guilty of multiple offenses before they are caught.   People who are known pedophiles (a very small portion of those even on sex registries which include lots of behavior that isn't pedophilia) whose background will be identified by that background check  are unlikely to be in a church where there are children, and will honor that because being around children will violate their release provisions.

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But there really is no evidence at all that background checks prevent even one instance of abuse at church, and it give parents and leaders false comfort that may interfere with their acting on what they see and hear that COULD actually protect.

 

The reason they don't help is that it is estimated that most abusers are guilty of multiple offenses before they are caught.   People who are known pedophiles (a very small portion of those even on sex registries which include lots of behavior that isn't pedophilia) whose background will be identified by that background check  are unlikely to be in a church where there are children, and will honor that because being around children will violate their release provisions.

 

I agree with what you say except I don't believe release provisions do much to deter pedophiles.

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I was discussing this with our bishop today - I'm in the same stake as jwhitlock. And I'm worried about some of the impact it's going to have on the education system. Elementary school teachers get a lot of help from parents coming in to volunteer. I know that my mom and many others did when we were in that age group.

 

This is going to be a bear of a thing...

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I disagree. If primacy is given to eliminating abuse at any cost, then taken to its logical conclusion, we will have to shut down every and any situation in which children might be abused.

 

Including at home with parents.

 

Saving "even one instance of abuse" at the high negative cost of mandatory background checks for all volunteers, which would include significantly reducing the benefits for children that come with such volunteerism, and not worth it. There are more effective ways of reducing abuse.  Church procedures, if followed, are a more effective way of doing so.

 

I don't think background checks are extreme enough to take it to any "logical conclusion."

 

Sorry, the benefits kids get from Saturday primary activities don't outweight the safety of one child.

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But there really is no evidence at all that background checks prevent even one instance of abuse at church, and it give parents and leaders false comfort that may interfere with their acting on what they see and hear that COULD actually protect.

 

The reason they don't help is that it is estimated that most abusers are guilty of multiple offenses before they are caught.   People who are known pedophiles (a very small portion of those even on sex registries which include lots of behavior that isn't pedophilia) whose background will be identified by that background check  are unlikely to be in a church where there are children, and will honor that because being around children will violate their release provisions.

 

Background checks might have prevented this incident:

 

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/07/10/mother_sues_mormon_church_in_abuse_case/?page=full

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But there really is no evidence at all that background checks prevent even one instance of abuse at church, and it give parents and leaders false comfort that may interfere with their acting on what they see and hear that COULD actually protect.

It is not only the incident cited by Gray which is indicative.  Many such incidents have occurred within regular LDS Church activities, committed by known sex offenders.  The same applies to other churches and youth organizations.  Child molesters are drawn to such positions by their own obsessive-compulsive desires, which seem incurable.

 

The reason they don't help is that it is estimated that most abusers are guilty of multiple offenses before they are caught.   People who are known pedophiles (a very small portion of those even on sex registries which include lots of behavior that isn't pedophilia) whose background will be identified by that background check  are unlikely to be in a church where there are children, and will honor that because being around children will violate their release provisions.

Criminals do not tend to obey the law.  That is why they are criminals.  They are always trying to find a way to get around any restrictions, and rates of recidivism are quite high.  Particularly for sex offenders.

 

When any church trusts criminals, it may seem like a nice thing, and we all believe in second chances.  When it comes to children, however, it is dangerous negligence to trust sex offenders, and the LDS Church has had to pay out millions of dollars in judgments and settlements already (that's tithing money).  Exercising due care and caution, including background checks, might be a valid defense for the LDS Church in future lawsuits.

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Following the two deep leadership rule would have prevented that.   A background check might have id'd the guy, but since that was committed in a different state, and 22 years earlier, it might not have.   Also, the fact that he'd done a sex crime 22 years older might not have, if it was a different kind of sex crime than molestation of children. 

 

Do you know what happened in the 2008 case?

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Following the two deep leadership rule would have prevented that.   A background check might have id'd the guy, but since that was committed in a different state, and 22 years earlier, it might not have.   Also, the fact that he'd done a sex crime 22 years older might not have, if it was a different kind of sex crime than molestation of children. 

 

Do you know what happened in the 2008 case?

 

I don't know about you, but the two deep rule is never followed perfectly in my ward. People call in sick, one teacher gets called away to deal with something.

 

Personally I don't want a sex offender anywhere near my child. Period.

 

I don't know what happened with the 2008 case.

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I think a loosely written law is not a good idea, they create more work and more loop holes than should be allowed.  I hate when laws get passed without fully being researched, although I am in favor of background checks generally speaking.  

 

 

Background checks are already required in my school district to volunteer or be in the school during regular school hours.  They are not required to attend your child's concert or things of that nature though.  Same rule that we have to have them done by the state every 3 years.  

 

Our state recently went to finger printing all child care workers.  We already did background checks, but now we finger print as well as do the regular checks.  We don't catch everything still, but we catch more than before.  But it is a pain in the rear and it also takes a lot longer.

 

Before I joined the LDS church, our church was running into an issue with background checks for those involved with children.  Our insurance company was going to require that anyone who worked with children or had access to children, have one completed as well as mandatory reporting training.  It was a bit of a mess because the church only had 3 kids who came on a regular basis.  But the way the insurance company wrote up the requirement was that basically everyone would need the background check and training because it said anyone who had access to a child.  I ended up leaving the church a few months later so I am not sure what became of that, but my mom teaches the Sunday school and has never mentioned having a background check.

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................................................  A background check might have id'd the guy, but since that was committed in a different state, and 22 years earlier, it might not have.   Also, the fact that he'd done a sex crime 22 years older might not have, if it was a different kind of sex crime than molestation of children. 

.......................................................

Modern law enforcement uses online systems which can report on all 50 states and territories, covering all sex offenders, and any other types of offences.  However, to be effective they must be used.   So background checks are essential.

 

These types of crimes run the gamut, and often involve repeat offenders.  I have a long list of LDS cases, and there is an even longer list of Roman Catholic priest pedophiles.  It is irresponsible and dangerous not to exercise due diligence before a molestation occurs.

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But there really is no evidence at all that background checks prevent even one instance of abuse at church, and it give parents and leaders false comfort that may interfere with their acting on what they see and hear that COULD actually protect.

 

The reason they don't help is that it is estimated that most abusers are guilty of multiple offenses before they are caught.   People who are known pedophiles (a very small portion of those even on sex registries which include lots of behavior that isn't pedophilia) whose background will be identified by that background check  are unlikely to be in a church where there are children, and will honor that because being around children will violate their release provisions.

 

Given that background checks are not required at church, it's quite understandable how they wouldn't yet have prevented anything.  OUtside of church, however, I have found background checks to be very helpful and informative.  Of course, a criminal background check with the sole purpose of screening out someone who is unfit may be a nother matter.  But where they have been required (schools, preschools, municipal recreation programs, etc.) I suspect there's a strong deterrent effect, where those who have something problematice in their background don't bother applying.  (I have a cousine who is a registered offernder, and most likely the only reason he hasn't volunteered to help in one of those programs is precisely because he knows that he can't.)  Of course, this doesn't screen out everyone, a

 

I suspect there's a

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Modern law enforcement uses online systems which can report on all 50 states and territories, covering all sex offenders, and any other types of offences.  However, to be effective they must be used.   So background checks are essential.

 

These types of crimes run the gamut, and often involve repeat offenders.  I have a long list of LDS cases, and there is an even longer list of Roman Catholic priest pedophiles.  It is irresponsible and dangerous not to exercise due diligence before a molestation occurs.

 

Should all members get background checks?

 

Should it be a requirement to get baptized?

Temple Recommends?

Should the buildings include a restricted area for minors so that they can get be assured that only authorized personnel have access to them?

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Modern law enforcement uses online systems which can report on all 50 states and territories, covering all sex offenders, and any other types of offences.  However, to be effective they must be used.   So background checks are essential.

 

These types of crimes run the gamut, and often involve repeat offenders.  I have a long list of LDS cases, and there is an even longer list of Roman Catholic priest pedophiles.  It is irresponsible and dangerous not to exercise due diligence before a molestation occurs.

 

I understand the point you're making on this. There is a need to exercise due diligence, and sometimes church leaders don't follow the procedures in the handbook designed to address this.

 

In this case, it may be that the "cure" is worse than the disease, so to speak. Procedurally, the law is a bit vague on how such background checks can be enforced in order to accomplish their desired end. It's obvious that now there will be a legal exposure to the organization if they allow someone without the check to work with children, but I'm not sure that the exposure is eliminated if a person with a background check molests a child. From that standpoint, it's probably a lose-lose situation for the organization, since they now have the added paperwork, cost, and reduction of volunteers without any clear benefit.

 

And as is typical with the state of Pennsylvania, it takes forever for anything to get through the bureaucracy. The already slow process of checks and fingerprinting (which I'm already familiar with, since we've had to deal with it in other situations) is going to become inundated with tens of thousands of new applications due to how broadly the term "volunteer" is defined in the law. It's going to take months to get a clearance.

 

Ultimately, it may be possible that the church will need to significantly restructure its official programs for children and youth (Primary, YM/YW, Seminary, etc.) on both a ward and a stake level, simply because of increased legal liability and regulations like this.

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Should all members get background checks?

 

Should it be a requirement to get baptized?

Temple Recommends?

Should the buildings include a restricted area for minors so that they can get be assured that only authorized personnel have access to them?

None of these suggestions make any sense to me, and I doubt that anyone else would follow such extremist requirements.  Get serious Danzo !!  Or should I say, "Book 'em, Danzo !"  Sorry about that.  Couldn't help it.

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Actually the first 3 questions Danzo outlined do make sense. All members will at some time in their life, deal with children, and according to this PA law will need a background check so they might as well get " on the books " so to speak. All  people who are to be baptized should have a check run first to avoid future problems. And temple recommends? Well the chances are quite high that one will be asked to serve the youth when they come to do youth type temple work so a check would be needed then also. It all seems logical to me given the wide open interpretation of that law. :vader:

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