Discovering the facts is integral to any policy regarding sex offenders and the church. In my earlier post, I identified a few different scenarios. In some of those scenarios, the sex offender immediately disclosed to the pastor of the church his/her status as an offender. In this post, I will share concerns pastors and church leaders should immediately address in this case.
First, pastors and church leaders should have a set of questions prepared to ask the offender during this conversation. Questions should include the following, but are not limited to these specifics:
- What were the charges the offender was convicted of?
- How old was the offender at the time of the abuse?
- How old was the victim at the time of the abuse?
- What was the relationship of the abuser to the victim?
- What was the nature of the abuse- even though the specifics may be uncomfortable for you to hear, you need to hear how the offender words his actions because it will be important to recall when you do your own research.
- How does the offender view his recovery/repentance?
Second, pastors and church leaders should know how to access online state sex offender registries. You can click on the tab, “Sex Offender Registry,” to retrieve links to each or simply google “[your state] sex offender registry.” Click on the state in which the offender resides and search the offenders name. The registry will provide you with the offender’s current address, aliases, convictions, incarceration time, etc. Verify the offender’s story with the information you find on the registry.
Third, contact law enforcement in the geographic area where the offenses occurred and charges were filed. While law enforcement will not be able to share all the details, they may be able to provide some insight on the case, particularly regarding the perceived “threat of recidivism/re-offending.” They may be able to provide more information than what is available online, such as the original charges filed against the offender.
Finally, do not base your threat assessment simply on the charges of which the offender was convicted. Unfortunately, with many sex crimes cases, plea agreements are reached to avoid the trauma of trials. Due to delayed disclosures, physical evidence is often extremely limited or non-existent. In my case, my abuser was charged with three counts of indecent liberties with a minor; however, that should not reflect the frequency of the abuse that occurred. If my abuser was charged based on the number of times he abused me, it would have been in the hundreds which would likely have a significantly different impact on how pastors and church leaders would view his attendance at a church.
I hope this post has spurred thoughts and questions to consider regarding policies on sex offenders and the church. Please, feel free to send me your thoughts or questions and I will gladly share my input. I will be creating a page on this blog dedicating to resources for helping churches develop and implement healthy policies.