As Unitarian Universalists we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We believe in the healing power of involvement in a spiritual home. As a faith-based community, we can provide support, compassion, and vigilance to maximize safety when individuals who have sexually offended participate in the life of our church community.
This is a difficult statement for many of us, especially those among us who have suffered sexual abuse. We want to protect ourselves and our children from the harm of sexual abuse. The statistics are heartbreaking; it happens far too often. Why would we let known sex offenders participate in the life of our congregation, where we want to feel safe?
I encourage everyone to read the policy on including sex offenders that the Operations Leadership Team has adopted. We have layers of protection for including sex offenders as safely as possible by limiting their contact with vulnerable people (especially children,) having contact with their treatment team to assess their risk of reoffending, and determining what boundaries are necessary to ensure that they don’t have the opportunity to reoffend while at church.
And the truth is, our policy will not, and cannot, prevent the presence of offenders who have not been caught, or who do not self-report. This is why we have a child safety policy that requires two caregivers to be present with children while they are participating in church activities, to ensure that children and adults alike are protected. This is why all of us need to be ready to be active bystanders if a situation seems uncomfortable or unsafe.
By having a policy that outlines how (and whether) sex offenders can participate in our congregation, we live into our values and offer a healing place for those who are ready to take responsibility for their actions and transform their lives. Please know that when we cannot meet the criteria for a sex offender to participate with appropriate supervision, or if they do not adhere to the agreement we make with them, we will take the necessary steps to prevent them from being on our campus.
If you have concerns about the policy, or if you need pastoral support around issues of sexual abuse, please contact one of our ministers. The issues are complex, and we are here to listen and support you.