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Should your church accommodate known offenders?

[ – 11/30/20]

Our church just completed a Registered Sex Offender (RSO) Policy. Will you review it and tell us if it’s adequate?

We frequently encounter this (seemingly simple) question in our law practice.

In reality, the issue is multi-faceted and complex, and tends to kick off a broader discussion. In the larger conversation, this ‘simple’ query should be preceded by a half-dozen more pertinent questions before putting RSO policies in place. This writing’s purpose is to posit the topics a church should evaluate before offering ministry services to known offenders. We will not attempt an exhaustive analysis of the criminal justice system, the sex offender registration system, various tiers of offenders or state-by-state analysis of relevant legal issues. Instead, this article will draw upon concepts discussed in prior articles in this series in an attempt to provide ministry leaders a better understanding of the challenges inherent in the provision of ministry services to known offenders.


The following principles and definitions shape the larger conversation.

Read the full article


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So the whole article basically boils down to “don’t do what you preach”.

The entire basis for this dehumanizing behavior boils down to the perception that rso is a “known risk”. A false unsubstantiated claim in a magazine sighted by scotus in 2003. Now we are at a point that a million people are viewed as less than worthy of attending church. This should be a warning as a precursor to another Holocaust

For Christ’s sake this is such rubbish. Lawyers will be the death of the church.

The Catholic Church does not permit any participation in any ministry within the Church. The Los Angeles ArchDiocese will not speak out against ABORTION supported by the PSEUDO Catholic Joe Biden. But even someone who has been a productive member before ONE offense is excluded. The paranoia of the Catholic church and duplicity between a RSO and Supported of Murder of Unborn Babies.

I wasn’t terribly put off by this article, and was encouraged that it distinguished between RSOs, “known offenders” and “unknown offenders.” That differentiation, along with the admission that 90% of abusers have never encountered the legal system and are not on the registry, helps to break down the simplistic view that lumps RSOs into a single and dangerous category.

I had a positive experience with the monsignor at my Catholic church. His response was simply that the Catholic church was about redemption. Granted, I don’t desire to participate in any specific ministries. That would likely involve a different conversation.


The part that put me off of this article is:

“What is a Registered Sex Offender? A Registered Sex Offender is an individual who has been convicted of a crime involving a sexual act (i.e., sexual assault, child sexual abuse, possession/distribution of child pornography)”

Again, another prime example of getting the public to believe that all sex offenders were convicted for s$xual crimes against a child of some type or another – not a simple fact of even peeing in public could get you on a list.

Again, mis-education and mis-direction.

Also, possession of CP is not a “sexual act.”

However, the fearful and ignorant will assume the worst and subsequently discount you as not human.

Thanks for pointing out that quote. Words and sentence structure do matter. Note the use of “i.e.” in the sentence. The author should have used “e.g.” Those have totally different meanings. The former abbreviation is from the Latin “id est” literally meaning that is. By using “i.e.” rather than “e.g.” the author is defining a sexual act as only those things in the list. Conversely, the abbreviation “e.g.” from the Latin “exempli gratia” is a way of saying for example. Using “e.g.” would allow the authors to include the myriad of relatively innocuous acts that can land one on the registry, e.g. teen sexting, mooning, children playing doctor, urinating in a public place, etc.

I realize I’m making a small, and perhaps pedantic, grammatical point. However even that little error misinforms the public. As Dustin points out, the article has a feedback section where I will make this very point.


Posted the following on the article. Suggest others follow suit.

This is an awful long article which can be summarized as “don’t let those on the sex offender registry in your church.” Not a very Christian view in my opinion. Admittedly, I am not a churchgoer, but find it rather hypocritical that most churches preach forgiveness and leaving mistakes behind yet throw those mistakes in the faces of a selected population and exclude them based on demonstrably false perceptions.

Scores of research shows that individuals convicted for sex crimes are extremely unlikely to repeat, which was true even before there was a registry. Roughly 95% of sex crime is and always was committed by those without priors – Megan’s Law made absolutely no difference.

The simple fact is that if there is a sexual assault on anyone at a church, it is committed by someone without prior convictions. Despite popular opinion, those convicted of sex crimes have the lowest recidivism of any other class of criminal except convicted murderers. Even when they are arrested, it is nearly always for a status offense (perfectly legal activity for non-registrants or failure of a registry imposed obligation) and seldom has anything to do with the original offense.

There are scores of empirical research to support the assertions made above. But it’s been my experience that many will disregard it and cling to the false narratives, often claiming other studies support their preconceived opinions but yet can never cite one. It’s almost as if their faith in the registration system trumps their faith in God.

Assess the person, not the policy.

And the fact that “clergy” in the church are more likely to perpetrate the offense according to the stats given their position of trust within the church but why split hairs on that…

I chose not to explicitly point that out, figuring it wouldn’t pass their moderation. Then again, my post has been awaiting moderation since I posted it. If it’s still there on Monday, I’ll write to the editors.

I’m not a churchgoer either and find it to be hypocritical like you. I wouldn’t want to belong to something that is called Christian that excludes people for any reason at all anyway. If they do this, they aren’t following their own teachings and I wouldn’t want to be a part of legitimizing that. There are plenty of religious options out there that won’t take a hard line against SO’s. Interestingly, I even knew a guy back when I was in treatment program who was a Jehova Witness and they are generally pretty hard core. Even they didn’t totally kick him out for his offense. He was punished in that he could only attend meetings/worship but he was not allowed to converse with anyone in the congregation or ask any questions to elders during study meetings for a period of two years. Effectively he was not considered a ‘member’ for two years but could still attend the services themselves. After the two years he was welcomed back as if he never did anything wrong but can never become an elder.

As someone who’s been kicked out of 2 churches now due to my past sin years ago. For which I’ve completed treatment and accept the punishment I’m paying… all I can say is… I’m not surprised. I only pray that God will bring Justice to those who’ve excluded the forgiven. Like the master treated the slave with his debt, may the master of that master taste the chaos of God’s wrath and calamity upon their church, household, and self. -not very Christian like, but at this point, I don’t have the option to turn the other cheek. It’s the church that beats me, flogs my family, and punishes my child.

Written from a Lawyer’s perspective, which would be obvious without them self identifying as such. Not much biblical wisdom here at all. The real church will never consider legal liability before loyalty to the mission.

There’s nothing “multi-faceted and complex” about any of this.

The question is not should they “accommodate” us. The question not being asked is why should we TOLERATE their assumptions, hate and ignorance just so that we can feel accepted?

Their preemptive “concerns” tell me ALL I need to know about these people.

It tells me that my time is better spent elsewhere than in a room full of hypocrites for 2 hours once a week.

@ Facts: A-freaking-men to that.

People that ask the dumbest like that are being ridiculous.

The California Rescue Mission’s for homeless people dont take sex offenders because women and children live there which is understandable but 90% of homeless shelters in America don’t house men and women together some drug treatment felicitys but even that’s rare.
I think the reason why the Christian rescue Mission’s band sex offenders was because the police/probation and parole officers were demanding the address of the homeless shelters where they were staying and would conduct compliance checks on sex offenders and also run the names of other people staying at the shelter people would come there to get help and instead be arested.
Sex offenders are a burden to everyone and everything in Society just living next door to one could affect your family’s life other parents might not want their kids playing or have sleep overs or bday parts at your house because of the child predator living next door.
If your a sex offender you know u cant participate in public activities your lucky to even have a place to live let alone job or a wife and if you have kids OMG the anxiety and panic attacks 4 times a day worrying about how this will affect your children’s relationships with their peers in school and neighborhood friends.
So I get it the church is just like every other organization in Society they don’t wanna deal with sex offenders it’s just to much drama.

Good luck

People forced to register are allegedly insurance liabilities for Rescue Missions should anything happen and is, thus, why they are not allowed. You forget women and children could be forced to register too making it an all person problem, not just male as you imply.

Sorry, but you’re making a LOT of assumptions here.

“If your a sex offender you know u cant participate in public activities your lucky to even have a place to live let alone job or a wife”

Where are you going with this? I’m done with my sentence. I participate in plenty of public events and do so safely and with no problems. Lucky to have a place to live? It wasn’t luck – it was hard work and perseverance that found this place and which has paid for it over the years. Job? Guess anyone who has a job nowadays is lucky, not just sex offenders. Wife? Come on – really?

I’m not saying that it’s been easy all along the way since release from prison, but I’m not willing to fall into victimstance here.

Are there legitimate reasons that some sex offenders should not be welcome in some religious settings? Of course. On a case-by-case basis I can see lots of merit in that. As a blanket rule, however, I think puts things out of balance and removes a valuable resource from past offenders trying to keep their life heading in the right direction.

There is a religious organization which I participate in – they do adult education and programs around the country. I disclosed to the person in charge from the beginning and there were no problems. Partly this was due to explaining what I’ve done to change myself since the days I molested my victims. Partly this was due to the person in charge being committed to providing room for forgiveness in the program.

Some time later, there was another participant that was going to be in a virtual learning session I was signed up for. He/she ran all the names in the roster against the various registry databases and discovered that I was a registered sex offender. The leader and I had a long discussion, and it was understood that the problem in the moment was that they did not have a plan for such an occurrence and were caught off guard. I sat out that program (and a few others) until they got their ducks in a row.

Bottom line, they decided to implement a policy which barred persons believed to still be engaging in destructive behavior, whether as a sex offender, domestic abuser, child abuser, etc. It didn’t matter if the person had been charged or convicted, only if they were still in their s@!t or not. They were going to take each situation on a case-by-case basis and make an informed decision taking into account all the information they had. Of course, they also are doing this with eyes-wide-open and will take appropriate safety measures. For example, I will not be taking any leadership role or acting as a facilitator for anything. Just too many risks for them and for me.

There are no perfect solutions to this type of situation. But, a blanket policy on whether to accept or reject all sex offenders into a program can’t be the only answer either.


You are wrong, as often is the case.

The California Rescue Mission (CRM) does house sex offenders because, just like law enforcement, they have no idea who is and isn’t a sex offender. So they absolutely do house them.

Further, little of your comment makes sense. What is the problem with “people would come there to get help and instead be arested”? If a person is supposed to be arrested (e.g. they have an outstanding warrant), certainly CRM would want that, right? So why would they be concerned about that? Makes no sense. That is something they should want.

You said, “Sex offenders are a burden to everyone and everything in Societ”. Completely wrong. First, and again, few sex offenders are known to people. How would people know about a “sex offender”? Second, if there is any burden, it is the fault of society and not individuals. Registries are the fault of society and shouldn’t exist. If there are problems, too bad.

You said, “If your a sex offender you know u cant participate in public activities”. Again, the public has no idea who is and isn’t a sex offender. There is no way or mechanism for them to know.

“lucky to even have a place to live”? Most sex offenders aren’t known to anyone. How would that affect where they can live?

Pathetic. Shallow. Wrong.

Aero is just angry and self-hating and tries to project that on others. There’s no real point in reading what he has to say as it’s constant negativity and fear-mongering.

“good luck”.

If you call that participating it sounds like they were just trying be nice after they found out you where a child molester the only reason they made you sit out for a couple of sessions was to safely notify everyone that A sex offender was participating in their sessions.
Like I said if your a sex offender you can’t participate in public activities without somebody running your name through Google why even put yourself through all that it dont matter if your at church or at yoga class or volunteering to help on your son little league team someone’s gonna wanna know who you are.
You said it yourself you found A place to live through hard work and perseverance that’s great BUT your still lucky most people cant handle the pressure and end up living under the freeway or on skid row in downtown LA.

Good luck

Please stop making assumptions.

The decision for me to sit out a few sessions was reached mutually, and they did not notify anyone of my history. As far as I know this was the first time something like this has happened.

I didn’t put myself through anything, as you say, by choosing to participate. A situation came up and it was dealt with in a way that worked for everyone involved. Rather than attack things like a bull in a china shop and possibly burn bridges, I chose to take a softer approach. It has worked in the past and worked in this case.

The notion that everyone around us knows we’re on the registry is simply not true. Most people have far more on their minds than running the names of everyone they encounter through the database, and 99 times out of 100 the only person worried about it is me. When I was first released from prison I was convinced that everyone around me knew, but that was all in my head. Once I stopped acting like something was wrong with me other people did as well.

A pastor once said, “ People always cringe when you say, love the sinner but hate the sin. What that tells them is that you love me but you don’t accept me. When you do that you aren’t accepting their story in its entirety because of something in their past.” If people judge you based on your past; they aren’t moral people anyway. All should be welcome or close the door.

None of this can be taken seriously as they are categorizing all people on the registry together, and separating them from people who do other crimes. Why are people on the registry suspect and not people of other crimes? How do you know people who have done burglaries aren’t just casing the place out? People who have stolen in the past might be looking for phones and other items left unattended. Why aren’t they concerned that drug dealers will try dealing to the other members? Is it ok for drunks to show up and want to fight? How about those with gun charges, arson, embezzling, extortion, fraud? None of those are a threat? It is simply the lie, the stigma politicians and the media have put out there. These people don’t even know what they are talking about. The minute the say sex offenders, or people on the registry they immediately show there ignorance, as the spectrum is vast in sex offenses. Just like stealing, nobody groups shop lifters together with armed robbery, but that is exactly what is done with people on the registry. All of us are grouped with Jeffrey Dhamer.

I brought up this exact point with a non-profit social club I served on the board of. I voluntarily had disclosed my history when I joined the group, and at some point down the road another sex offender wanted to join. The initial reaction of most of the board was to bar his membership, but after some discussion they realized the futility of a piecemeal approach. Unless they were going to run a background check on every member for all types of criminal backgrounds, they’d barely be scratching the surface by singling out sex offenders.

It was at times a heated debate, but fortunately cooler heads prevailed. One of the things they realized was that unless they were going to start doing background checks on everyone for all crimes it made to sense take another approach. What we came up with was a rather strict code of conduct which addressed member’s behavior at events, not what happened years or decades earlier. One small success.

In my opinion, the only way this type of approach works is if we are not afraid to get involved and make our presence known. People in the larger community need to know us and our families. They need to learn that we’re not all the same and not like the fictitious monsters portrayed in the news and by politicians.

Just posted a comment on their page:

Because you state the comment below, people on the registry SHOULD be able to attend a church of their choosing without discrimination. All people could be a threat at any church, at anytime. Let’s stop banishing groups of people because they are on a “hitlist”, and start ministering to ALL people. Also, be careful. More public lists are being created. You could be on one soon for a mistake you’ve made in the past.

“What is an unknown offender? The unknown offender constitutes the largest group of abusers. Sexual offenders look like you and me, and often have no criminal record or other obvious indicators of risk. In every ministry, there are unknown offenders.”

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x