Churches and religious ministries, probably better than any other type of institution in existence, understand that human beings are fallible. We make mistakes. We are capable of changing—from willfully malignant to behaving in a manner worthy of humanity. Therefore in a way it would fly in the face of the beliefs of many nonprofit organizations to outright ban from volunteer work someone with a past history of violence (like a single fight decades in the rear-view mirror), so long as that violence truly does lie in the past.
Yet in this way, too, human affairs are not black and white, and we know that individuals with a penchant for preying on other people go where other people can be found, and where they may find them the most trusting. Ministries and churches must take care when determining who may be permitted to perform volunteer work on their behalf. One clear area is to prohibit volunteer work by someone who is already on an easily-accessible list of offenders to perform work with a class of people vulnerable to the type of violent act they previously performed.
There are ways to check on volunteers to make sure the people a nonprofit permits to perform volunteer work are, as far as the law is concerned, not a bad actor. The options below are a good place to start:
- Perform a criminal background check. The Arizona Department of Public Safety processes fingerprints for nonprofit organizations under Arizona Revised Statute section 41-1750(G)23, which states:
- “With a nonprofit organization that interacts with children or vulnerable adults for the lawful purpose of evaluating the fitness of all current and prospective employees, contractors and volunteers of the organization. The criminal history record information shall be provided on submission of the applicant fingerprint card and the prescribed fee.”
- Perform a search at the Sex Offender Registry maintained by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
There are other steps a ministry should take including child protection policies and continued monitoring. But, at a minimum, background checks and a search of the offender registry are good ways to ensure protection of the vulnerable populations served by the ministry.
Provident Law’s nonprofit attorneys can help nonprofit organizations in setting policies for volunteer onboarding. We stand ready to counsel and serve charities and foundations, as well as churches, private schools, colleges, universities and other types of nonprofit organizations—providing broad transactional and general counsel services in Arizona and surrounding areas. Contact us to learn more.