Spiritual leaders with access to children are not subject to police vetting, a loophole that urgently needs closing, according to a victim of historic sex abuse.
It is not a loophole. The state has no business telling private organisations what to do with vetting.
As it stands now, the law states that all State-funded organisations have to vet children’s workers. But despite a legacy of child sexual abuse scandals, the law does not cover religious institutions.
That is because they are not state funded. The last thing you want is the state regulating religions, as that encourages religions to get involved in the business of the state.
The law applies anyone in a government-funded agency that works with children, along with core children’s workers like nurses and teachers.
It also covers employees in religious groups’ programmes that receive State funding and teachers at religion-affiliated private schools.
So the law is not a loophole and not an exemption. If a religious programme is state funded, then the vetting is mandatory,
But all religious groups should screen leaders and youth workers too, Shelley said.
Why? Not all religions are the same.
Stuff contacted a range of religious institutions, including New Zealand’s Anglican, Catholic, Mormon, Presbyterian, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic and Scientologist groups, to ask whether they were vetting children’s workers.
Among those that responded; the Catholic Church’s policy requires not only police checks, but psychological testing for its clergy training to join the order.
Its social services staff are also vetted and it is currently drafting national guidelines for its smaller parishes.
Presbyterian and Mormon churches already have national policies to vet employees and volunteers with access to children, and the Anglican Church circulated a document to its diocese last year recommending the same.
So most churches are vetting on a voluntary basis, so what is the problem?