News & Resources

Recent arrests in Georgia churches highlight need for tougher background screenings

Feb 01, 2011 Matt Roesly

After a string of recent arrests and molestation charges, church officials in Northeast Georgia are considering taking steps to make background screenings more stringent. The Athens Banner-Herald reports that in the past four months, three ministers who worked with children have been charged with molesting minors they were in charge of looking after. One of the latest arrests was Benjamin Harris, who was taken into custody by police in Gwinnett County after being accused of sending graphic text messages to one of his 14-year-old Sunday school students. Police said that though the man had gone through a background check, he had somehow slipped through the cracks and been allowed to work with children. "This guy actually had a background check done by the church. He's been there for years," said Gwinnett police corporal Jacob Smith, a public information officer for the department, in an interview with the paper. A member of the U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced a bill that seeks to better protect children from sexual and violent criminals. California Representative George Mill outlined a new piece of legislation that would prevent schools from hiring someone who has been convicted of sexual or violent crimes.