Safe Congregation Procedures
(June 13, 1996; June 25, 2014)
- Safe Congregation Committee: Formation and Functioning
2. Definitions of Harassment and Abuse
3. Policy Regarding Behavior of Minister
Procedure for Complaint Against Minister
4. Policy Regarding Behavior of Staff
Procedure for Complaint Against Staff
5. Policy Regarding Sexual Harassment of Employees
(as regulated by Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1991)
Procedure for Complaint of Church Employee
6. Policy Regarding Behavior of Member or Guest
Procedure for Complaint Against Member or Guest
7. Policy Regarding Sex Offenders
Procedures for Inclusion in Congregation
- Safe Congregation Committee: Formation and Functioning
The Board of Trustees shall appoint a Safe Congregation Committee of five members consisting of the minister, a board member, and three members of the congregation to serve for one year. The five will include at least two women and two men, and replacements will be appointed by the Board as necessary or as terms expire. The committee shall handle complaints according to the following guidelines:
- a) All complaints shall be given prompt and fair consideration.
- b) Persons presenting complaints shall be free of coercion, restraints, interference, discrimination, or reprisal.
- c) The Safe Congregation Committee shall act with sensitivity, objectivity, and fairness in handling these complaints.
- d) Decisions of the committee must reflect a quorum of at least three persons, one of whom must be the minister or the board member.
- e) The committee will appoint a chairperson and a back-up chairperson to fill in if the chairperson is unavailable.
- f) A complaint can be made verbally or in writing to any member of the Safe Congregation Committee. That member will then contact the chairperson who will arrange for the formation of a panel to address the complaint. The panel will have at least one man and one woman. The complainant or any panel member can request that an additional member(s) of the Safe Congregation Committee be on the panel, hence increasing the panel size to four or five members. The panel must include either the minister or a board member.
- g) Except under extenuating circumstances, the panel shall meet within ten days of the complaint being made, and shall issue a decision within ten days of the panel’s first meeting. (At any point in this process the panel may determine that the panel is not the appropriate body to address or deal with this complaint.)
- h) If the panel’s decision involves any disciplinary action against the offender, the panel shall make that recommendation to the Board of Trustees. If no disciplinary action is involved, the panel’s decision can close the complaint process.
- i) A complaint against the minister will be handled by a special Safe Congregation Committee panel consisting of: the President of the Board of Trustees, another board member, and three members of the congregation.
- j) A written record shall be kept using a standard form(s) developed by the Safe Congregation Committee. Unless otherwise required, this confidential record shall only be accessible to the Safe Congregation Committee members, the Board of Trustees and the minister. Access shall be further limited if the complaint involves any of these parties.
- k) In handling any given complaint, the panel shall not be required to keep a written record if the complaint is resolved informally or dropped at the request of the complainant. Under such circumstances, neither shall the panel be required to contact the individual the complaint was against.
- Definitions Of Harassment and Abuse
Two principal forms of interpersonal violence are harassment and abuse, which are defined below. If an individual feels his/her personal safety has been violated in this congregation by a behavior or form of misconduct that is not specified here, s/he may still file a complaint with the Safe Congregation Committee.
Harassment / common alternative spelling: harrassment
Harassment includes unsolicited and unwelcome conduct that in the case of sexual harassment has sexual overtones. All forms of harassment can feel intrusive, intimidating, hostile, offensive and/or humiliating to the victim. This includes physical, psychological, and sexual harassment. Stalking is also a type of harassment.We consider these three areas to overlap, but are focusing on where the primary complaint is. Unwelcome physical touch with sexual overtones would be considered sexual harassment.
- Physical- pertaining to unwanted touch, contact, or other physical intrusions on another’s space
- Psychological- pertaining to emotional and mental levels of pestering,intruding, stalking, etc.
- Sexual- pertaining to unwanted sexualized behaviors, which may be in the form of:
c1. physical conduct- touching, pinching, brushing against, impeding or blocking movement, assault, coercing sexual contact, etc
c2. verbal conduct- sexually suggestive or obscene comments, sexual propositions, threats (including threat of job loss or other punishment unless victim engages in sexual relations), jokes about gender-specific traits or sexual orientation, etc.
c3. written conduct- sexually suggestive or obscene written material;
Abuse is a pattern of behavior that is used to control and/or dominate another person. Abuse can be physical, psychological, and/or sexual.
Physical– includes actual or threatened harm, such as hitting, shoving, kicking, or throwing things. The harm or threat thereof may also be against family members, pets, or treasured belongings.
Psychological– includes being mistreated mentally and emotionally, such as being insulted, ridiculed, or threatened verbally.
Sexual– includes any of the behaviors above. Three major areas of concern are:
- Sexual relating or contact between an adult and a minor;
2. Sexual relating or contact between minors that violates one of them because of the other’s role or position of power;
3. Sexual relating or contact between adults that violates one of them because of the other’s role or position of power.
- Policy Regarding Behavior of Church Minister
The minister will recognize the power the ministry gives him/her and refrain from practices which are harmful to others and which endanger his/her integrity or professional effectiveness.
Such practices include, but are not limited to, sexual activity with a child, with an adult in the congregation who is not his/her spouse or partner, with a counselee, with the spouse or partner of a person in the congregation, with an intern, with an employee/staff member, or with anyone else whose relationship with the minister would be exploited by a sexual involvement. If the minister is single, before becoming sexually involved with a person in the congregation, the minister will take special care to examine his or her commitment, motives, intentionality, and the nature of such activity and its consequences for the minister, the other person, and the congregation.
The minister will not invade the private and intimate bonds of others’ lives, nor trespass on those bonds for the minister’s own advantage or need. In any relationship of intimate confidentiality, the minister will not exploit the needs of another person.
Sexual misconduct is a violation of the ministerial relationship in which a person in a position of religious leadership takes advantage of a vulnerable person instead of protecting him/her. It covers a wide range of activity, and the harm caused by this misconduct is related to the degree of seriousness. The range below is from (a) the least degree of seriousness to (e) the greatest degree of seriousness:
(a) Sexual innuendoes / language
(b) Inappropriate touching
(c) Unwelcome advances or requests for sexual favors
(d) Sexual relations with an adult under inappropriate circumstances
(e) Sexual relations with a minor under any circumstances.
Procedure to Handle Complaint Against Church Minister
The complainant shall make a confidential statement, verbally or in writing, to a member of the Safe Congregation Committee. That member will then contact the chairperson, who will arrange for a special Safe Congregation Committee panel to be formed. This special panel shall include the President of the Board of Trustees, another board member, and three members of the congregation (from the Safe Congregation Committee, if possible). The panel will meet within ten days after the complaint was made. A written record of the complaint shall be made at the time of the meeting. In the event the complaint alleges that sexual relations occurred, the Safe Congregation Committee must immediately report it to the UUA Ministerial Fellowship Committee in Boston, Massachusetts.
The Safe Congregation Committee panel shall issue a decision within ten days after the first meeting of the panel. The process of reaching a decision may include a meeting between the complainant, the minister, and the panel, if such a meeting will not put the complainant at risk.
- Policy Regarding Behavior of Staff
The staff shall be held to similar standards as the minister. Staff members, if single, shall not be prohibited from a dating relationship with another staff member or a person in the congregation. Before becoming sexually involved with another staff member or a person in the congregation, a staff member will take special care to examine his/her commitment, motives, intentionality, and the nature of such activity and its consequences for himself/herself, the other person, and the congregation.
Procedure to Handle Complaint Against Staff
The complainant shall make a confidential statement, verbally or in writing, to a member of the Safe Congregation Committee. That member will then contact the chairperson, who will arrange for the three (or more) person panel formed from the Safe Congregation Committee to meet within ten days of the complaint being made. A written record of the complaint shall be made at the time of the meeting.
The panel from the Safe Congregation Committee shall issue a decision within ten days of the panel’s first meeting. The process of reaching this decision may include a meeting between the complainant, the staff member the complaint is directed against, and the panel, if such a meeting will not put the complainant at risk. As is deemed appropriate by the panel, the panel shall report the nature of the complaint and the panel’s decision regarding the complaint to the Personnel Committee.
- Policy Regarding Sexual Harassment of Employees
(Under Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1991)
All employees and persons who have been contracted with for their labor have the right to an environment free from sexual harassment. Sexual Harassment is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. When a person is sexually harassed, s/he is afforded the same protection and redress as a victim of any other form of discrimination.
Sexual harassment is defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as the use of one’s authority or power, either explicitly or implicitly, to coerce another into unwanted sexual relations or to punish another for his/her refusal of same; or the creation of an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment through verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
It prohibits unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conducts of a sexual nature when:
5.1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment; and/or
5.2) submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as the basis for a decision or decisions affecting such individual; and/or
5.3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance; and/or
5.4) such conduct has the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment, and the supervisor knows or should know of the existence of the harassment and fails to take timely and appropriate action.
All individuals in positions of supervision are responsible for their own conduct and for the conduct of individuals they supervise, and will take affirmative steps to stop sexual harassment by subordinates when it is brought to their attention, including warning or disciplining the offending individual. Such disciplining may include any legally acceptable means, to be decided with the assistance of the Safe Congregation Committee, and if deemed advisable, the Board of Trustees.
Procedure to Handle Complaint Of Church Employee
When an employee has an unresolved complaint about another employee or anyone s/he encounters in the context of the church work environment, the employee shall first discuss the complaint with the minister or the Personnel Committee. If the employee would like further assistance in resolving the complaint, the employee can submit the complaint in writing to the Safe Congregation Committee, along with an explanation of actions taken to date. If the minister and/or the Personnel Committee have been involved in any attempts at resolution, they shall also submit documentation. (If the complaint is against the minister, see page 4 for procedure.)
The Safe Congregation Committee will, within ten days of the complaint being made, have the panel meet to review all written materials relating to the complaint and meet with all relevant parties. Except under extenuating circumstances, the panel will issue a decision within ten days of the panel’s first meeting, which will close the complaint process.
- Policy Regarding Behavior of Member or Guest
We believe our church needs to have clearly communicated standards. Misconduct on the part of a member or guest can have harmful effects on any individual as well as on the rest of the congregation. This is intended to protect the welfare of all individuals, including the church staff and minister.
Gradations of seriousness can apply to all forms of harassment and abuse. For example, the following list applies to sexual misconduct, where (1) is least serious and (5) is most serious:
6.1 Unwelcome sexual innuendoes / language
6.2 Inappropriate touching
6.3 Unwelcome advances or requests for sexual favors
6.4 Sexual relations with an adult under inappropriate circumstances
6.5 Sexual relations with a minor under any circumstances.
Appropriate steps will be taken when the behavior of a member or guest has the effect of interfering with another person’s personal safety and/or spiritual growth.
Procedure for Complaint Against Member or Guest
The minister, church staff, and church officers all have the right to exclude or remove from the church premises, by any lawful means, any person whose conduct is so disruptive and/or offensive so as to impair the functioning of the church. This conduct may come to their attention by direct observation or by verbal or written complaint of another member or guest. The objectionable conduct may be in person, by mail, by telephone, or by other means.
If the complainant and/or church official (such as minister, staff member, etc.) believes the person committing the objectionable behavior is not aware that his/her actions are disruptive or offensive, the complainant and/or church official can attempt to resolve the situation by approaching the person in this way:
1) Clearly and directly tell the person what action is disruptive and/or offensive.
2) State that you expect the person to stop this behavior.
3) Firmly tell the person that if his/her actions persist, you will file a formal action with the Safe Congregation Committee whose role includes investigation and resolution of such issues.
If this effort is ineffective or such an approach is deemed unacceptable or inadvisable, the complainant can make a confidential statement, verbally or in writing, to any member of the Safe Congregation Committee. A panel from the committee will meet within ten days of the complaint and attempt mediation and resolution, while respecting the confidentiality of all parties concerned. If the complainant or the panel believes there to be a possible risk of harm, the identity of the complainant shall be kept confidential. The panel shall issue a decision within ten days of the first meeting of the panel.
The Safe Congregation Committee panel may resolve the complaint by recommending to the Board of Trustees that they do any or all of the following:
1) Permanent or temporary barring of offender from church premises and functions;
2) Termination of committee, council, teaching or volunteer positions;
3) Requirement that offender enter therapy program to remain a church member;
4) Removal of offender from church membership;
5) Filing of formal charges under State and/or Federal law.
- Sex Offender Policy
The Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene affirms our first principle, the dignity and worth of all. We further affirm our responsibility, indeed our privilege, to provide a congregational home to all who seek one. No less urgent or sacred is our responsibility to keep all safe, young and old. To that end, this church will protect all from harm, while offering compassion and support to sex offenders who cooperate with our Safe Congregation Policy.
- SAFE 6.1 We are committed to keeping children and youth and vulnerable individuals from sexual abuse.
o 6.11 All individuals working with children and youth as staff or volunteers must submit to a criminal background check. (see screening form)
- SAFE 6.2 We will develop and implement policies and procedures for educating adults, youth and children in the congregation about child sexual abuse and prevention.
o 6.21 At least once annually, in the fall, all children, youth and adults participating in the RE Program shall have age-appropriate discussion about personal safety that includes age-appropriate messages using the No, Go, Tell protocol or other approved program. This will be coordinated by the DRE and may be taught directly by him/her or a trained designee from the OWL program.
o 6.22 At least once annually the adult congregation will have a review of prevention of child sexual abuse. This could be a topic of a sermon, an insert in the newsletter, part of an adult OWL program, annual training for the minister, RE director, board and staff, or a presentation by a speaker who is expert in this field.
- SAFE 6.3 We will develop and implement policies and procedures for responding to a person convicted of, or accused of, sexual offenses against children and youth (below).
- SAFE 6.4 We will create, train and maintain a Safe Congregation Task Force to implement this policy. Its charge is to do our best to keep all members, friends and visitors safe across the lifespan. This task force will work with the minister and be accountable to the board.
- SAFE 6.5 Because of the moderate to high probability of reoffending, which increases over time, a conviction for a second offense either in the church or community shall result in permanent exclusion from the congregation.
Procedure for including sex offenders and accused sex offenders in congregational life
Given the prevalence of child sexual abuse in our society at large, it is prudent for this congregation to develop policies and procedures to deal with the potential abuse, those accused of abuse, and identified treated and untreated sex offenders.
“The criminal justice system manages most convicted sex offenders with some combination of incarceration, community supervision, and specialized treatment. The majority is released at some point on probation or parole. 60% of offenders managed by the US correctional system are under some form of conditional supervision in the community.” (1)
Attendance and membership in a local congregation may be encouraged by their treatment provider or parole officer to decrease social isolation. (2)
Review of literature suggests that treated sex offenders are less likely to reoffend. Recidivism is low to moderate according to a 2003 study (3). However, meta analysis released from federal statistics in 2005 suggests a recidivism rate of closer to 18 to 40% over an offender’s lifetime.
The key to inclusion of accused sex offenders in congregational life hinges on seven conditions:
- assumption of innocence until proven guilty;
• because it is possible that a person may be falsely accused, it is imperative that confidentiality be maintained. It is also imperative that all suspected cases of sexual abuse be reported to the police or DHS 541-686-7555;
• must meet with minister and one board member or Safe Congregation Task Force member;
• must immediately submit to a thorough criminal background check;
• signature of limited access agreement without admission of guilt;
• accompaniment at all times by chaperone of the same sex;
• no contact with children or targeted/vulnerable persons at any church related events.
- Federal Center for Sex Offender!Management
- Balancing Acts: Keeping children safe in congregations, Rev. Debra W. Haffner p23
- Balancing Acts. op cit p40