Sunday, February 21, 2016

Churches need plans to deal with sex offenders, expert insists

DENTON—Congregations should develop strategies for when—not if—a registered sex offender arrives at church, a licensed sex offender treatment provider told a group of Denton Baptist Association ministers.
A convicted sex offender on parole can attend a place of worship, but he or she must notify a minister or some other designated individual in authority and be accompanied by a chaperone who has completed court-approved training, said Cathy Champ, clinical director and therapist at Ranch Hand Rescue Counseling Center in Argyle.
“If the individual is not on probation or parole, a person on the sex offender registry does not have to tell the pastor or ask permission. But he should. It’s better for everyone,” Champ told a seminar on “When Sex Comes to Church,” held at First Baptist Church in Corinth.
Establish clearly defined boundaries
Not every sex offender is guilty of a contact offense, but all sex offenders need directive counseling, positive influences and clearly established boundaries, she noted.
An offender who is undergoing counseling or has completed treatment successfully should be willing to accept responsibility for past behavior, desire accountability and welcome appropriate boundaries, she said.
“As a minister, you can tell them: ‘We want our church to be safe. We want you to be safe, too.’ It will be helpful for them to have clear boundaries,” she said.
What to do
If a registered sex offender asks a minister for permission to attend worship services, Champ recommended the minister:
Request the name and phone number of the individual’s probation officer or parole officer, if applicable.
Ask questions about the offense for which the person was convicted, as well as what the offender actually did. While an individual may have been convicted for a single count of a lesser offense, a sex offender who wants to get better will take responsibility for other offenses committed, she noted.
“Listen for minimizing, cognitive distortions or blaming,” she said. “Listen for the word ‘just.’ That’s a sign they are not taking responsibility.”
Inquire if the offender currently is receiving treatment or has completed treatment successfully. Ask for the name and contact information for any current or past counselor. Ask the offender to sign a release with that counselor, and then ask the counselor to contact the minister directly.
While the counselor does not have to provide details about counseling sessions, he or she should indicate whether the offender attends or attended treatment regularly and provide an evaluation regarding progress, she said.
Ask if the offender already has a trained chaperone who will attend church with him. If not, some churches may chose to make the training available to a selected group of members who can serve in that capacity.
Request a copy of the offender’s safety plan, once it has been approved. The plan should be a detailed set of guidelines that covers issues such as through which church door the offender should enter, where the individual sits in the sanctuary, which designated restroom will be used and which areas of the church building are off-limits.

Make a redemptive difference
Churches should establish clear policies about who in the congregation needs to know about a registered sex offender’s status, she suggested.
“You can help them by supporting the positive changes they are making and help them connect with positive social influences,” Champ said. “Give them concrete boundaries. It is for the protection of your church and for (the offender’s) protection.”
Churches need to be safe places for children, as well as places where sinners—including people with sex offenses in their past—can find redemption and transformation, she said.
“Jesus would be hanging out with sex offenders,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing he did.”


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"When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect."
~Adlia Stevenson U.S. Vice President (1893–1897) and Congressman (1879–1881)

On a Personal Note

Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts regarding the issue of citizens’ rights, particularly addressing certain sex offenders’ crimes that do not fit the devastating, inequitable and endless punishment given.

As you know, many young men and women lives across the nation are being destroyed by incarceration, life-time registry and restrictive laws that do more harm than good. For those individuals, there is no second chance.

Below is a personal letter to President Obama:
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“Dear President Obama,

I truly agree with your sentiments that individuals, such as ex-felons, should be able to receive a second chance at life. Since we all know that one can veer off that path of life and travel along rough, rocky terrain, sometimes running off and ending up in some ditch. We all have made our fill of mistakes and sometimes those held a costly consequence that changed life forever. So we lived through it, trying harder to make things right with family, friends and those around us, but what about those who aren’t able to make things right even if they tried…because they’re labeled as too dirty, a leper, a person who is rejected from society and home.

But what if they’re a seventeen year old and had sex with a fifteen year old, consensual at that? Or they’re a teen that had gotten so enraged after a breakup that he sent out naked pictures of his girlfriend on his cell phone or email? Or an individual urinates where someone just happens to see them?

All are wrong and a travesty but do they deserve the life of no second chance with a registry that ends all. They are labeled, no jobs, no where to live…they have been deemed a menace to society, a plague. These certain circumstances, and many other situations similar to these, I believe still deserve a second change.

Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

After my son’s early release and two years of prison, I thought I had handled that fact graciously knowing after serving his time he would be able to get that fresh start, that second chance. He was an exemplary inmate, GED, college courses and vocational classes. Little did I know that a second chance on the outside was the farthest from the truth? He now struggles and lives in a trailer park sharing a trailer with another and surrounded by others in the same rocking boat, one to float endlessly in shark infested waters. I see him little because of probation requirements (he couldn’t live with us because we were 800 feet near a school). My family is afraid of what would happen to them if he lived with them…vigilantism. My son has no other place to stay since others condemn him of his crime that is screamed from the highest rooftop. Sex offender, sex offender!

Not all sex offenders are pedophiles or predators but some are simply young kids that make one stupid and rash decision that eventually changes everything, and they have no idea what they’ve done until their life is never their own. Exactly, where is that second chance for those sex-offenders who are lumped together with pedophiles and predators? Now, it makes me sick to think of my son’s future and many like him that are on the registry and many with no second chance…ever. I am asking you as a mother and as another concerned citizen of the United States that these laws are looked at again and taken into serious consideration in what they are doing to the Constitution of the United States, not for sex offenders in general but the future rights of every citizen, before anymore are put into effect. They unjustly strip an offender of their rights and place them in a guillotine that can be easily set off by anyone and at anytime. Where is the second chance for ex-sex offenders in the present, pending and future laws?”
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What truly saddens me is the weakness and deterioration of what the sex offense issue is doing to our once, great nation. Across Europe, others are seeing the injustice and disregard of rights, but we ignore this problem and it makes me wonder where humanity is heading….

We have become a hysterical society in which our latest witch-hunt is a sex offender--no matter his/her crime.

Below is a email sent from a foreign advocate to a father of a sex offender:
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“The tragic story of your son's death is just so sad that it's difficult to explain how. It was very hard to read your letters. It seems almost unbelievable that this can take place in a democracy! From our point of view, there is no justice in this. Not in any way: not for you, your son, the former girl friend – or even the state.

It is an abusive legal system. It seems barbaric. And we are so very sorry that this takes place. That's why it's so important for us to try to neutralize the debate with this…, hopefully making some changes. ….. to show the every day life of the sex offenders, trying to show how they keep on being punished, even after served prison time…..But we will for sure tell the story of the injustice that your son has been exposed to.”
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I appreciate everyone's commitment and backing to protect everyone's civil rights, plainly as noted in the Constitution of the United States and is presupposed, giving ALL men are “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”