Dealing with Sexual Abuse Part I: Sex Offenders

Dealing with Sex Offenders in Your Church

Sexual abuse is a serious issue that can have devastating effects on the lives of its victims, and convicted sex offenders who have been released from prison can still prove to be a threat to society. For that reason, when you learn that you have a sex offender attending services at your church or participating in its programs, there are a few steps and precautions that need to be taken to protect your church and your congregation.

At Beacon Insurance of Pace, Inc. we are a specialized insurance firm offering coverage to churches, Christian schools and nonprofit organizations. We have a strong partnership with GuideOne Insurance that gives us access to invaluable safety resources our clients need in order to keep their ministries and organizations protected. Our calling is to illuminate their path to peace of mind, and we believe that taking precautions against sex offenders is critical in decreasing the risk for sexual abuse within the congregation.

Steps to Safeguarding Your Church Against Sex Offenders

Churches who are aware of an individual’s criminal sexual behaviors with children (or adults) risk enormous legal liability if the church becomes the scene of a later crime. It is better to keep the safety of your congregation the foremost priority. In situations where a sex offender has been discovered to be part of the church congregation, there are four steps that should be taken.

1. Learn the local laws

2. Formulate a plan of action

3. Meet with the offender

4. Implement the plan

Learn the Local Laws

You must find out for certain that the person in question is a convicted sex offender so that you are not raising accusations against someone that are false. Such accusations have the potential to cause lawsuits against the church, so do your due diligence and check the National Sex Offender Public Website to verify that they are listed.

Once you have confirmed their status as a sex offender, research the local laws and ordinances concerning sex offenders. These laws generally involve severe restrictions on where a sex offender may live, but some also prohibit an offender from having any contact with minors or from being anywhere that children assemble.

Formulate a Plan

After the leaders of your church have a clear understanding of the local laws and ordinances, they should determine the approach that will be taken in dealing with sex offenders. Options you might want to consider include:

· Allowing restricted access to the church’s facilities and programs

· Completely barring the individual from the church

· Limiting their access to certain programs or certain areas at particular times

· Requiring that they observe set conditions such as allowing them monitored church attendance or coordinating church attendance with their probation officer or treatment provider

All courses of action must be seriously considered, as the chosen approach could have consequences. Treating the offender no differently than the other members of your congregation by allowing them to have unrestricted involvement creates an extreme risk for liability. However, completely prohibiting the individual from church property is an action that should be taken only under the guidance of legal counsel to prevent a lawsuit. Often, the safest approach is to allow them to have limited access to certain church programs or activities. It is critical that once a course of action has been chosen, the leaders of your church apply it consistently.

Meet with the Offender

After you have created an official policy for dealing with sex offenders, your church is far better prepared to deal with such situations in the even that one should arise. If you have discovered the presence of a sex offender within your congregation, a meeting between the individual, the minister and at least one other person should be arranged. These meetings are important for a number of reasons:

· The individual will be made aware that the congregation has learned of their criminal history

· The church will be given the opportunity to provide and explain its policy on sex offenders

· The ministry needs of the individual can be fully discussed

· A background check may be authorized in writing by the individual

· The individual will have the opportunity to give written consent for the release of their probation or parole information to the church

· A discussion of who will be made aware of the situation will occur

In the event that the individual is unwilling to comply with the terms of your church’s policy or is prohibited by the terms of their parole or probation from being in the presence of groups of children, they must them be excluded from the congregation and its activities entirely.

Implement the Plan

If the offender has agreed to the terms of your church’s policy, the plan should be implemented using a team approach. The team should function as a unit to minister to the individual at the same time as it works to safeguard the members of your congregation and its children. If you have chosen to allow monitored attendance, the team should designate and assign chaperones for the offender each Sunday that they are in attendance and during any other church activities where they are present. All violations of the policy must be taken seriously, no matter how small they might seem.

Call Beacon Insurance Agency of Pace, Inc., to learn more about GuideOne and how we can help you safeguard your church against sex offenders today!

Read Part 2: Responding to Child Sex Abuse

Read Part 3: Sexual Misconduct

Terry Fortune, President
Beacon Insurance Agency
Email Us | 850-290-8181