The Guy Kicked Out of Church for Molesting Kids Has a New Job Doing What?!

I know former clergy members have a difficult time finding work after they leave the pulpit… but when you were kicked out of the Church for molesting kids, it seems obvious that you shouldn’t be allowed to have a job where you may be asked to frisk people (including children)…

The [Philadelphia International Airport's] security checkpoint between Terminals D and E is a busy place where thousands of people — including lots of kids — pass through every day. But you might not believe who the I-Team observed working as a TSA supervisor at that checkpoint this week: Thomas Harkins.

Until 2002, Harkins was a Catholic priest working at churches across South Jersey. But the Diocese of Camden removed him from ministry because it found he sexually abused two young girls. Now, in a new lawsuit, a third woman is claiming she also is one of Harkins’ victims.

“The public should not be worried with you in a position like this despite your past?” reporter Ben Simmoneau asked.

“I have nothing to say,” Harkins repeated.

He then used his TSA badge to walk into a restricted area where our cameras could not follow.

Supposedly, Harkins deals with luggage and not people, but that’s not to say he couldn’t be asked to fulfill other roles.

Even though criminal charges were never filed against Harkin because the first two cases were so old, it all makes you question how reliable TSA security really is when they didn’t even catch this during his background check. Or worse, they did catch it and let the guy have this job, regardless.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rich-Rodgers/1621390164 Rich Rodgers

    If criminal charges weren’t filed, how could they have kept him from this job? Don’t misunderstand, I don’t want to defend this guy. But do we want to live in that world, where allegations carry the same weight of a legal indictment and conviction? I don’t. Hopefully they can convict him of something, because he sounds like a skeezy individual all too common in his former profession. But let’s be fair and even handed about this.

    • Rcjruff

       I’m trying to figure out as well if there were charges. I see where it says…in a NEW lawsuit, which kind of implies there were but not specific. If he was just kicked out but not prosecuted, then that’s probably why he has gainful employment now. Let us know…

    • Miko

      It’s not really all that common among priests.  The problem is that the Church tries to cover it up and refuses to deal with it when it happens; not that it’s rampant.

    • Sven

      I have to agree with Rich. It seems today like any offense, of which there are too many to count, can make someone an “unperson” who can’t possibly have any sort of future.

      If we can’t convict someone then we need to let them go. That’s the price of our system of justice. It may not be perfect but it’s better than most.

    • http://www.facebook.com/brandie.winchester Brandie Lynn Winchester

      But bothers me is not the fact that he is working where he works. What bugs me is the fact that so many times when these things happen in the church the person is let go and charges are not filed. This does not stp the sicko from hurting others but only prevents him from using his religious position to do so.

    • judith sanders

      If the diocese actually admitted  his guilt, there’s no doubt that he molested the girls.  For me, that carries more weight than a secular conviction.

  • Tim

    Look at it this way.  An Catholic priest is unlikely to be a muslim terrorist

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      True. He’s much more likely to be a Christian terrorist.

  • Miko

    If he only handles luggage, the point is moot.  Also, TSA policy mandates that screeners only frisk people of the same gender; the allegations here only suggest that he molests women.

    The TSA is a horrible organization and I would favor its elimination, but this is the weakest attack on them I’ve ever heard.  Given the horrible things that they actually do, complaining about who they hire to screen luggage seems a bit silly.

    • Onamission5

      I dunno. It seeves me out to think that someone who molests children could be sifting through luggage containing my kids’ underthings. I know I have little say in the matter, but still, skeevy.

      • CelticWhisper

        I agree – better the children’s underwear than the children themselves, but it’s entirely inappropriate for this…individual…to be in any position of authority or influence, no matter how miniscule (as TSA clerks’ influence truly is).

        This is really just another great big argument in favor of abolishing TSA altogether – they knowingly hired a child molester to provide so-called “security.”  Great employment standards, there, guys.

        As for this priest, he belongs in prison and nowhere else.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    I’d rather live in a country where the occasional kid gets felt up by a TSA screener than one in which people are denied employment based on allegations that have not been tested in a court of law.

    In any case, I doubt there’s anything a TSA screener can do that wouldn’t be caught on cameras from several different angles. There’s probably no safer place for a suspected child molester to be than in the secure area of an airport.

    • CelticWhisper

      Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be so sure of that.  TSA has a history of “losing” video footage that incriminates their screening clerks when said clerks do something illegal, inappropriate, or otherwise embarrassing to the agency.

      TSA is about the worst possible place for a known, confirmed child molester to work.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        A worse place than a church? A school? A scout troop? I don’t think so!

        There’s an argument to be made that the guy is a security risk, since anybody with personal secrets is potentially open to blackmail (one reason that homosexuals were drummed out of intelligence services for years). But it doesn’t sound like this guy’s background is much of a secret. If the TSA is aware of it, fine. I really don’t see how he poses a significant threat to children in his current job.

        • CelticWhisper

           The reason I say TSA is worse than those places is because at a school or scout troop or church, there is no necessary expectation of physical contact.

          TSA screening clerks do, on the other hand, necessarily have to have physical contact with travelers, including children.  They perform “screenings” that frequently involve full-body gropedowns that include genital contact.  Worse, they are granted legal immunity from prosecution for this when, in any other context, it would unequivocally constitute sexual assault.

          Basically this scenario amounts to “Pervo priest gets job where he can’t be arrested for touching the genitals of minors, but the minors and their parents CAN be arrested for fighting back.”

          • Tom

            There’s also the more general principle that, when a priest abuses a child, they’re massively abusing a position of some considerable authority.  Anyone who has been known to even slightly abuse authority over other human beings should have no place in any government agency, let alone one that wields as much inscrutable power as the blunt instrument known as the TSA currently does.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I’m not defending this guy’s behavior while he was a priest. But unless and until we know exactly how the TSA structures its staff duties, this statement is an enormous assumption:

    Supposedly, Harkins deals with luggage and not people, but that’s not to say he couldn’t be asked to fulfill other roles.

    If we were to not know anything about how a hospital structures its staff duties, it would be the same kind of  assumption to say, “Supposedly Jones deals with sweeping and cleaning the floor, but that’s not to say he couldn’t be asked to assist in open heart surgery.”  I think it’s naive to assume that everyone who works for the TSA is qualified and allowed to do any of the many and complex tasks that the TSA has to perform. 

    Frankly, shlepping luggage and/or staring at an X-ray screen of thousands of suitcases seems a safe place to put him.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      And if he does frisk anyone, it will all be on video.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I don’t even have words for this.

  • JaneRLeBlanc

    Is anyone else just shocked the church fired him instead of hiding it?

  • TheAnalogKid

    Can the TSA get any more fucked up? I use to say the TSA was a jobs program for morons and criminals. I guess I should add sexual predators. 

    • CelticWhisper

       Shameless plug: Travel Underground dot org has regularly-updated accounts of just how much more fucked-up TSA can indeed get.  And yeah, yeah they can.  They can get much, much more fucked up than this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    I don’t think it’s necessarily very fair to disqualify him from his job or attack the TSA for hiring him when all he has against him are unverified allegations and his job doesn’t involve frisking anyone. Let the guy sort luggage ffs. What’s the worst he could do? crack open someones suitcase and sniff their underwear?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X