GA: If I Join a Church After Prison, How Much of My Past Is Safe to Disclose?

Source: 10/25/23

Last Sunday, I tried to work up the courage to go to church. I did some Googling of the churches sprinkled around the Georgia county where I currently live. There are dozens; I could take my pick. But when I think about meeting a new congregation, I freeze. Do I introduce myself as trans? As someone who just got out of prison? As a registered sex offender? Or do I make up some story that’s easier?

In September I was released, after 13 years in Georgia Department of Corrections custody, into a rural part of the state I’d never been to, where I have no family or close friends. As a believer, as well as a someone who’s been ordained and holds a doctorate in theology, church is one of the few places I might actually be able to find community and form meaningful relationships.

But church congregations in the South already trend to lean right. Then the media feeds in hateful rhetoric around “trannies” who are “groomers.” And now, instead of the usual fictitious argument about some elusive trans woman sex offender—well, here I am.

People conceive of sex offender registries (SOR) as exclusively full of child predators. They don’t necessarily know that these registries include people with a broad range of unrelated convictions, and a cross-section of vulnerable communities.  I know I’m not a danger to children, and that I’d be at church to go to church, but I have a paralyzing fear of being in proximity to children and families. Any parent might decide I don’t belong, and because I’m on parole it feels like the slightest whisper could send me back to prison at any moment. Freedom is a tenuous thing when you’re no longer innocent until proven guilty.

Maybe it’s best to get ahead of the narrative, by going up in front of everyone and disclosing my past in testimony. But which parts are safe to disclose, and what if I guess wrong?

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Tell the Pastor your story and him alone. Not everyone who walks through the doors of the Church building is a Christian, and unfortunately, if the wrong people find out that are not spiritual, it can cause you a lot of embarrassment and grief. It the Pastor welcomes you with open arms and tells you that no one is outside the forgiveness of God and salvation that is in Jesus Christ then I would certainly give that Church a chance, but if you are met with a lot of uncomfortable questions and/or asked to sign some papers and be scrutinized, then find somewhere else. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn people or scrutinize them, He came to save them, regardless of whatever others may think.

I have enjoyed an online church created by and for registrants:

They have online services and a weekly support group (contact the pastor).

You will feel welcome. It is safe.

Why give anyone a target while you are still on paper????
As Roger H said, check out;

Your past is exactly that YOUR past, you should be known for your present and future and how you act from this day forward.
After you get past the paper I would think you could travel around the state and find a group you feel comfortable with.

If one takes responsibility for their crime/s, serves their time, then should be able to go back into society without any problems coming at them from society, especially the church.
I am not at all religious but I find some people who are religious not willing to forgive no matter what.

I have Christian friends who know about me and who believe I am a very good person. Actually they are my best friends because they are very supportive towards me. Also, believe it or not they are my boss (my job) – husband and wife – Christians – “Learn by your mistakes – we still love you” – now those are real Christians!!

You won’t have to disclose anything. Pick any church and attend it, At first people will be welcoming and friendly, but if you go one day and notice those you befriended start to behave in a standoffish fashion or you experience any shunning (people looking at you sideways), then you know the “cat is out of the bag” and it’s just a matter of time before they hope you get the message and stop attending voluntarily.

Ask me how I know.

Imagine a transgender sex offender on parole, fresh out of prison after serving 13 years walks into a church in some rural area with a GPS tracking device on their ankle and starts to disclose their past and gives their whole testimony to the congregation.
I’m from California and even the churches out here would call the police and have you vacated off the premises an you better pray there ain’t no school on that church property, so I can only imagine down in Georgia.

Last edited 1 month ago by AERO’S PHO

The question of “If I Join a Church After Prison, How Much of My Past Is Safe to Disclose?” is simple to answer: none is safe to disclose.

Why do you feel you need or must disclose anything to a group of people you have never met before?

Go to church to fulfill a purpose, a sense, and a way to heel (all have sinned ya know).

If an organization won’t accept you for having a checkered past…then I would posit that organization (religious or otherwise), may simply not be for you (likewise, if they do “welcome” you, but with a multitude of strings attached). For example, many churches may “accept” a homosexual/transgender individual, but *only* on the premise that such an individual is attending under the auspices of “redeeming” themselves by “learning” how to “behave and think righteously”…(as defined by the church/religion of choice, but usually amounts to something resembling “conversion/aversion therapy”…except with a “spiritual” component.) The same goes for… [people forced to register], who are often treated like lumps of radioactive material that need to be isolated by special “handlers” so as not to cause harm to the rest of the “uncontaminated” congregation. This is just my opinion, but generally speaking, Christianity has never struck me as a particularly, shall we say, “open” religion when it comes to just about anything related to sex (scandals within the church notwithstanding), and that particular subject seems to be a real hot button in the scriptures from what I can remember.

I recently read a Washington Post article in July about a welcoming Baptist church, the Mt. Hebron Baptist Church, located outside of rural Hartwell, Georgia. Here’s the link to the article: georgia pastor myerholtz mount hebron/. I bet this church would be welcoming to members of our peculiar fraternity.

I wouldn’t dare attend a building claiming to be a church or temple Religion is another form of control and used has a tool to shun registered citizens. I know, I get stopped at the door by security and told to leave the property.. I hope in the near future religious organizations will lose their tax exempt status by the Federal and treated like any other curropted business.