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June 13, 2008

Comments

Zossima

I am not a lawyer, but I would think this position opens the door for the SBC to be sued. There is absolutely no reason why the SBC cannot create a membership requirement to (1) have criminal background checks on all church employees; (2) check predator databased from local law enforcement on all people who work with children or youth; and (3) to report that to a national db.

Greg, what is the proper response to the "Rapture Check"? I was never part of the SBC. They were too liberal for my church. (No kidding.) Ah, memories.

sepherim

I seriously doubt that the SBC could be sued because they have no direct connection, interest, or ownership of any individual church and they do not as an organization have any kind of placement or assignment authority for putting people into any church staff positions. That being said I find this to be one of the most despicable actions they have taken recently. For some reason I have a problem with removing a church from "friendly cooperation" for having a women in the pulpit or for doing anything that might possibly be considered affirming of any aspect of homosexuality and yet not doing what they can to help churches keep sexual predators off of their staffs. Someone needs to take Gideon's staff to the backside of Morris Chapman and the SBC Executive Board.

sepherim

Also I spent my entire life, with a couple of momentary lapses into sanity, attending SBC churches and have never heard of a "rapture check."

april

this is something i have never understood. anyone who can explain it to me would be so helpful. what is the point of view here? how does it make sense in their minds to be so damn paranoid about homosexuality, etc, but seemingly not give a crap about pedophilia or sexual violence of the heterosexual kind? is there some perspective that makes this make sense?

Jay Kelly

I also vote for an explanation of Rapture Check. No idea what that means.

Leighton

Zoss, I'm not a lawyer either, but my understanding is that labor laws vary widely from state to state concerning what constitutes due diligence in hiring people who work with kids, and in what capacity. Colorado, for instance, requires background checks for teachers, but not for non-teaching school personnel. Depending on the state, caselaw on church employment may be a factor as well.

I think items 1 and 2 are valid concerns from the perspective of not wanting to offer a false sense of security. Imagine a church who hired a sexual predator, checked the new Baptist database, but declined to run his SSN past NSOR. My experience with church secretaries is that they're just the right combination of overworked, tired and trusting that this would happen a lot.

"Credibly accused" isn't really a good legal criterion for inclusion in such a database anyway; pastors in the database who weren't convicted of any crime could sue a church that decided not to hire them on the grounds that they're being presumed guilty of something the court system hasn't established that they've done. I appreciate that there is a problem to address, but a voluntary Baptist-only database just doesn't seem to be very helpful.

Something helpful SBC could do (maybe, depending on their bylaws--though certainly individual churches could do this) is mandate full criminal background checks on anyone who will be working in a leadership capacity or with children. This wouldn't solve the problem of some pastors not standing trial because their victims are too afraid to face them, or in cases where they've sexually abused someone who is mentally ill or otherwise not prima facie a reliable witness. But it would help, and it's certainly better than nothing.

My favorite solution of not having pastors at all isn't terribly popular, alas.

greg

Leighton,

doesn't create a false sense of security so long as you tell people it's not exhaustive. The SBC already encourages full background checks, but those don't help when it's a youth pastor who banged a sixteen year old and was never prosecuted because of the girl's age and the fear of embarrassment.

All,

The response to Rapture check! Right here.

xjvpastor

Here is another reason (to go along with your post) that we no longer go to church - http://www.30minuteworship.com/

We passed this place on our way to San Antonio for vacation. That is the name of the church. It reminded me of In and Out Burger. The only difference In and Out Burger emphasizes quality.

Leighton

I guess my hangup is that if churches actually did (1) a criminal background check, and (2) actually called the references in the "previous job experience" list on CVs to verify that names, dates, etc. all match, and staff at the prior churches were honest enough to say "Oh, yeah, we let him go because he behaved in sexually inappropriate ways that weren't prosecutable," then the database wouldn't be necessary. It's not clear to me that when this level of honesty between churches is missing, that a database would be an adequate substitute. It's a good idea in theory, but it seems to me that the same lack of transparency that makes such a measure necessary would also make that specific measure ineffective.

Maybe I've just been working for lawyers long enough that asking for increased accountability from a church institution seems about as useful as a white guy like me walking into Israel and Palestine and saying "Hey, have you guys ever thought about not killing each other all the time?" If this database idea looks like it's getting any traction, I don't want to say anything to discourage it; it just doesn't seem like the kind of thing an organization whose top priority is self-preservation (which implies not taking on any liability that isn't strictly necessary) would ever decide to put into practice.

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