Local church rethinks screening process - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Local church rethinks screening process

Reverend Mike Northcutt thought he had seen it all in his 37 years behind the pulpit. He was wrong. Reverend Mike Northcutt thought he had seen it all in his 37 years behind the pulpit. He was wrong.

Posted by: Bryan Henry - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - From Tracy, California, to Montgomery, Alabama, Reverend Mike Northcutt thought he had seen it all in his 37 years behind the pulpit.

"It was shock to us. I tell myself 'what else can happen?' and something else comes along," said Northcutt.

Northcutt is referring to 28-year old Melissa Huckaby who stands accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering 8-year old Sandra Cantu. Huckaby served as a volunteer Sunday school teacher at her grandfather's church in Tracy. Authorities say Cantu's body was found in a suitcase in the bottom of an irrigation pond.

Meantime, Eastmont Baptist Church in Montgomery has a thousand members. That includes around 300 children, two full-time youth ministers, a part-timer and scores of volunteers.

"Our society is a troubled society," said Northcutt.

At Eastmont every volunteer and employee go through a background check before they even begin dealing with the children. It's not because anything ever happened at Eastmont, rather pastors like Northcutt say they saw the handwriting on the wall long ago. It's a different world today.

"A lot of people have a lot of problems," said Northcutt.

First, there's the background check and even if nothing shows up, the church doesn't stop there.

"We do that every two years because there could be things in the intervening time we do not pick up on," said Northcutt.

And there are more checks and balances. Children are never left alone with just one adult.

"Two unrelated adults because related adults tend to cover up for one another," Northcutt said.

The church's so-called 'SAFE' policy is something started some time ago as self-imposed. The general theme of SAFE is accountability and providing a safe environment for the kids.

Eastmont Baptist Church feels pretty good about its protective policies but because of what happened in California, a review of those procedures may be in order.

"We're always looking to improve," Northcutt said.

That includes the likelihood of adding cameras throughout the complex, especially where children play and learn. Foolproof? No but Mike Northcutt wants to do all he can to keep the sordid tale in Tracy from ever playing out in Montgomery.

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