Ethics and Religion Talk: Should congregations welcome sexual offenders?

[The Rapidian]

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“West Michigan Hindu Temple has not had to deal with this issue up to date so I have to speculate on this one. Before anything we must understand that the term ‘sex offender’ has multiple meanings. It stretches from a make out session gone a bit too far between teenagers who have just a couple of years of age difference between them all the way to the most heinous crimes beyond the imaginations of most people. I suspect that we would do little to safeguard ourselves against those who may have made unwise decisions but pose no threat to the community. As far as accommodating those convicted of more serious offenses I would hope that we would deliberate each case on its own merit. The most important aims of any discussion should be maintaining a safe space for all congregants and providing the person in question with the opportunity for spiritual growth. Both common sense and compassion should be used in this situation.”

R. Scot Miller, who writes from an Anabaptist and Quaker Christian perspective, responds:

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I belong to a large, non denominational bible church. I am a registered citizen. My church not only welcomed me with open arms (they are aware of my crime and past), but I am an usher during the main service, a mentor to college aged kids so they can learn from my mistakes, and host a weekly bible study in my home and outreach program to others dealing with a pornography or sex issue. There is forgiveness through Christ. My church lives this belief. Now, I am sure that some of the elders would pay attention if I started hanging around the kids rooms, but other than that, I am fully welcomed and encouraged to be involved in my church.

A very heartwarming piece, with similar responses across the faiths. It was also good to read about the understanding of the need to assess people as individuals, not as a the blanket RC. As well, the realization the registry is wrong and ensnares numerous people who shouldn’t be.

I did cringe a bit when I read, “Sex offenders are welcome in Catholic Churches!” {Awkward silence from the diocese}

I guess they should each go in their heart and ask what Jesus would do.

Attending a church without letting others know your status puts a fear cloud over the head concerning being discovered. I went to Mariner’s Church in Irvine California for over 10 Years with the men’s ministry but after I placed a prayer note (as many others do) on the chapel cross (disclosing I’m on the registry) I was escorted off church grounds a following Sunday and demanded by Mariners Church security never to return. My offense was a misdemeanor not involving a child over 18 years ago. I am a level 1 misdemeanor registered Ex-offender. why I state my level is because if they would do it to me they’ll do such to all of those on the registry.

I’m hurt by the betrayal of all the teachings this church had preached during all those years. Matt. 23:3 comes to mind. Do what they tell you to do, but do not do what they do. Churches need to be held accountable to practicing what they preach and teach. I believe in a non-public police registry for while on probation or parole afterwards they should be accepted completely back into society. To do otherwise is evil and Wrong.

Real Christians and Christian churches would do as Jesus Christ did and stand against these kind of popular wrongs. There are to many supporting verses to even list them all… Any church pastor worth his salt knows this. The fight isn’t only against laws and politicians but against those behind the pulpits, in churches and others among us in society that refuse to support the God given Rights of all people even the pariahs like registered EX-sex offenders. Darn Pharisees…Well they have a pretty church…What would Jesus say?

Most churches are more interested in money than souls. Families with children brings in the most money. That being said, there are a few Christian churches are practicing what they preach. I belonged to a church that gave me the cold hand shake and the pastor wife said, “I was the reason the church was not attracting families with children”. I left the church and the funny thing is that all the few families with kids left the church, as well. After my absence of 5 years, the church ending up getting a new pastor and he connected with me “wondering about reason for leaving the church?” and I told him. He said, “He was not running a social club but a repair shop for the lost, hurting, sick and broken souls”. Now, I am back and on staff and the families with children are more than ever.

Although I am not surprised, I am still disappointed. Registered offenders are still the pariahs of our society according to most. If you can’t find refuge in the so called house of God than were do we go? In no way should a church dis-fellowship a member without cause, however those types of decisions are not spiritually based. I am a saved christian who loves the church that I attend; in no way shape or form will I disclose my background not unless I have to. Under no circumstance will I put myself in a compromising position; I will not ever work with kids nor will I take a position to work with them. My offense was not with a minor under the age of 14, and as a result of that, I will be placed into tier 1. with a misdemeanor charge. Naivete does not exist and I am more cautious and careful now than in the past.