Background Checks for Church Workers

Should places of worship be treated like work environments? One article published recently on a west Michigan news site suggests that background checks should be done for employees and volunteers at places of worship. As seen in previous posts about background checks for school and summer camp volunteers, even those with supposedly good intentions may be hiding a criminal past and, thus, working around children, or other vulnerable citizens like the disabled and elderly, isn’t ethical or safe for those involved. And, in this case, should Sunday school teachers and clergy for all types of religious places of worship be held to the same safety standards?

Although the separation of church and state in the First Amendment may keep local and state governments out of religious institutions, members of the communities or members of these places of worship also have a right to be safe. With child molestation charges from priests and other church clergy coming to the light in recent years, including statements from those experiencing this years ago, shouldn’t religious institutions and places of worship be held accountable for keeping their members safe? In workplaces, this is typically done with a background check.

Places of worship should see that not all employees, like clergy, are fully pure. While this may cause a sense of distrust amongst coworkers, those who are members of a church, or a synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship, have a right to be safe, without wondering if a Sunday school teacher or priest has a criminal history. As seen in other cases, possible volunteers for churches and places of worship may have to pay for a background check but, as with occupations and volunteer positions, places of worship should be kept to the same standards, and having employees and volunteers pay for a background check is a small price in having a safer environment in places of worship.