Texas House Approves Bill Encouraging Churches and Nonprofits to Report Sexual Predators to Possible Employers

The House approved a bill Wednesday that would encourage churches and nonprofits to report suspicions of sexual misconduct to prospective employers of current employees and volunteers.

McKinney GOP Rep. Scott Sanford, who is on staff at a Southern Baptist church in Allen, said he hopes his bill will lead to more sharing of information about sexual predators.

The bill is in response to February news reports in the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News disclosing that in the past two decades, 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers faced allegations of sexual misconduct involving over 700 victims.

Some of the leaders and other perpetrators were able to find jobs at churches despite convictions or pending charges, the newspapers reported.

“Sexual abuse thrives in secrecy,” said Sanford, executive pastor over stewardship and operations at Cottonwood Creek Church. “This bill shines a light so victims can come forward and charitable organizations can end the silence that allows predators to move between organizations.”

While state law requires various categories of caregivers, educators and professionals to report suspected child abuse to Child Protective Services, there is no legal obligation for a church, ministry group or other nonprofit to pass on information about possible sexual abuse or harassment involving an adult.

House Bill 4345 would make churches, charities and their employees and volunteers exempt from civil lawsuit liability if they disclose in good faith to an individual’s current or prospective employer their belief that while at the church or charity, the individual engaged in sexual harassment, abuse or improprieties.

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SOURCE: Dallas Morning News, Robert T. Garrett