No law on church worker checks

| May 29, 2011

Since a Temecula assistant pastor was arrested last month and charged with raping a 16-year-old choirgirl, revelations about his criminal past have raised questions about church hiring practices.

At least one church member and a victims' advocate say the pastor, who had been convicted in 2008 of sex with a 15-year-old from his previous church, should not have been allowed to work around youths.

Police have said that, as choir director at Mountain View Community Church, 26-year-old Joseph Jermaine Spencer was around up to 50 teenage girls. According to a police report, the lead pastor knew about his criminal history.

But the law does not require background checks for church employees, just those at church-run schools. And some sex offenses, such as the one on Spencer's record, don't require registration as a sex offender.

"It's like setting John Hinckley (the would-be assassin of President Ronald Reagan in 1981) free and giving him a pistol," said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, a national group that helps victims of abuse by religious authority figures.

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Category: Church Security

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