New bill to protect churches and other organizations from predatory behavior within

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Churches, charities and nonprofits could disclose allegations of sexual abuse without fear of civil action, under a bill sponsored by pastor and state Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs. 

In the past, predators have committed indecent acts within churches or organizations and then bounced from one entity to another without consequence, often leaving the organization before the incident is reported.

Churches and nonprofits are typically more vulnerable to these types of predators, as both are constantly looking for volunteers to help their busy and understaffed organizations. After a simple reference check for new employees or volunteers, HB 1546 could stifle the opportunity for a predator to work within another local organization and exploit vulnerable volunteers or workers. 

Potential new employees or volunteers must not have engaged in sexual misconduct, sexually abused another individual, sexually harassed another individual, committed any sexual offense under state law or have engaged in conduct that has affected one’s fitness for ministry. 

Allegations often do not go far enough to be considered criminal activity, and will not show up on a background check. This has lawmakers calling for such organizations to be honest and straightforward about any potential allegations, and to report said allegations as quickly as possible.

Jessica Petrie, a lobbyist for Missouri Kids First, says the bill will be an important first step to ensure patterns of unfavorable behavior are found out before further unfortunate events occur. 

“We think one of the reasons why nonprofits don’t share that information is because they’re afraid of being sued,” Petrie told KBIA News.

To date, nobody has testified in opposition to the bill. The proposed legislation needs approval from the House Judiciary Committee before it goes to the full Missouri House. The bill’s text can be found here.  

Featured photo courtesy of Tim Bommel | House Communications

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