Title 12
Criminal Procedure

Chapter 1
Identification and Apprehension of Criminals

R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-1-17

§ 12-1-17. Background checks for employees of religious organizations.

(a) In order to assist Rhode Island’s religious organizations and houses of worship (hereinafter religious organization) with the ability to ensure that their staff, teachers, and employees are of good moral character, all persons eighteen (18) years of age or older seeking to work or volunteer for any religious organization shall, at the specific request of the religious organization, be required to undergo a national criminal background check for the purpose of determining whether the prospective employee or volunteer has been convicted of any crime.

(1) Participation of any religious organization with the system of background checks created by this section is voluntary and any decision to request a national background check for any person may be made at the sole discretion of the religious organization.

(2) “Disqualifying information” for purposes of this section shall mean those offenses included in §§ 23-17-37, 11-37-1 — 11-37-8.4, and §§ 11-9-1 — 11-9-5.3.

(b) Any religious organization may require any applicant for employment or volunteer activity, if that employment or activity involves routine contact with minors, to apply to the bureau of criminal identification (BCI), the department of the attorney general, the state police, or the local police department for a nationwide criminal records check. The check shall conform to the applicable federal standards, including the requirement that the applicant provide a set of fingerprints to facilitate the background check.

(1) It shall be the responsibility of the BCI to conduct the national criminal identification check within fourteen (14) days of the applicant’s request.

(c) If any disqualifying information is discovered with respect to the applicant, the BCI shall inform the religious organization in writing, without disclosing the nature of the disqualifying information, that an item of disqualifying nature has been discovered. In addition, the BCI shall inform the applicant, in writing, of the nature of the disqualifying information.

(1) Upon receipt of the disqualifying information from the BCI, the applicant may, within twenty (20) days of receipt thereof, request that the BCI provide a copy of the information to the religious organization which will have the discretion to determine whether the applicant is eligible for employment or volunteer status.

(d) If no disqualifying information is found upon completion of the background check, the BCI shall notify both the applicant and the religious organization, in writing, of this fact.

(e) Upon completion of the background check, and after the twenty-day (20) period referenced in subsection (c)(1) of this section, the BCI shall promptly destroy the fingerprints provided by the applicant.

(f) No religious organization that disqualifies an individual from employment or volunteer activity as a result of its receipt of disqualifying information, shall be liable for civil damages or subject to any claim, cause of action, or proceeding of any nature, as a result of such disqualification.

(g) The applicant shall be responsible for the costs of conducting the nationwide criminal records check.

History of Section.
P.L. 2017, ch. 51, § 1; P.L. 2017, ch. 60, § 1.