How You Deal With Sex Offenders At Church Can Impact An Organization
Dealing with sex offenders at church is not an easy task to handle. Board members within a church organization, must do most of the heavy lifting related to the church operations. From overseeing budgets to coordinating outreach ministries, to dealing with church insurance.
Churches have faced mounting media attention, related to incidents of sex offenders at church, who find their way into leadership positions.
Churches struggle to make sure it doesn’t happen to them next and can face the harsh realities that follow such allegations. One topic raised is do we allow a known sex offenders at church to be part of our congregation when an offender has been worshiping with them or would like to.
Churches fear their insurance policy may have an exclusion contained within their policy, if they allow a known sex offender at church.
While you may choose to minister to the spiritual needs of the sex offender, your number-one priority is protecting your congregation – especially children, the vulnerable and abuse survivors.
As a church, it is important to have a formal written sex-offender policy in place that has been reviewed and approved by your churches leaders and legal counsel. In addition, it is important that all church members are part of this discussion.
Keep These Strategies in Mind When Crafting Your Church’s Abuse Policy:
DO consider consequences of your written policies related to sex offenders at church. Pray and carefully weigh the pros and cons of all available options. For instance, allowing a known sex offender at church, to have access to all areas of your church and ministries, may pose a major liability risk to your church organization. It could serve you well to talk with these individuals and review your written policy with them. This will help remove any false expectations from both parties. Not allowing these individuals to volunteer in the nursery or youth group, would be a reasonable expectation placed on these individuals. If you make the decision to exclude known sex offenders at church entirely, this decision needs to be made with legal assistance. Whatever decision you make, be sure you follow these guidelines on a consistent basis.
DON’T assume anything as fact related to possible sex offenders at church. False accusations happen daily and are damaging to the individual and to your church organization as a whole. If a church member tells someone within your leadership team, that someone is a convicted sex offender, it is critical to be 100 percent certain before labeling him or her or impulsively informing the entire church congregation. A simple option to confirm someone’s sex-offender status is on the National Sex Offender Public Website. If your church is in California, you can also conduct a check on the California Megan’s Law Website. Most of the time, the person’s current picture will also be included within the search on both of these websites. Once you have positively identified the individual(s) as actual sex offenders at church, investigate local laws and ordinances regarding offenders to help guide your church’s written policy and procedure. It is very possible that your state might ban these individuals by law or by the terms of their probation from places where children congregate or from having any contact with minors. A little research can go a long way in handling a sensitive topics, as your organization consider allowing known sex offenders at church or not.
DO establish known clear boundaries for sex offenders at church properties. A signed conditional attendance agreement between your church and the sex offender, is one option in allowing known sex offenders at church to participate in different church activities. Work with your church’s legal advisor to develop your written agreement, ensuring it follows your local, state, and federal laws. Keep the outlined guidelines as straightforward as possible. Here are a few examples:
- I understand that I may not sit with a minor during worship activities.
- All sex offenders at church must check in and check out with church leadership.
- I agree to stay away from areas where kids predominately gather such as the churches playground, nursery, children’s church, and youth rooms.
- I understand that I am never to be alone with any minor on church property.
- I agree that violating any of these agreements will result in my being prohibited from attendance at any church function whether on or off church premises.
DON’T ignore compliance issues for sex offenders at church. If a known convicted sex offender begins to attend your church – or wants to – schedule an in-person meeting with the offender and your churches board members. If all board members are not available ensure as least two church leaders attend the meeting. Any absent church leader should be made aware of the meeting minutes asap. This meeting with provide your church organization with a good open forum, to inform the sex offender that you’re aware of his/her background. Your board can explain your church’s policy on sex offenders at church and discuss the offender’s ministry needs. During the meeting, you’ll also want to:
- Gain written approval for a background check and release of probation/parole information
- Review who you’ll disclose information to within your church congregation
- Have the offender sign the limited attendance agreement
- Address any concerns of either the board member’s or the sex offender
- Allow for an open discussion to take place in a calm and respectful manner of all attendees
If the convicted sex offender agrees to your churches policy and authorizes a release of probation/parole information, we recommend your church reaches out to his or her probation officer. This will allow for you to you to clarity on the conditions of the offender’s release. It is important that your church works with their probation officer to ensure, your new church member is within compliance of their probation.
As safety needs to be at the forefront of your churches organization, think through your sex offender at church policy, and procedures to identify areas of concerns. These concerns may be from board members and your churches congregation. For instance, consider forming a risk management team and not having just a single person taking on this responsibility. These individuals will be responsible for training staff and volunteers, conducting background checks on employees and volunteers who work with kids. Having your entire congregation involved in the process of establishing guidelines, can make the difference in producing a successful program. Every precaution you implement as a church can goes a long way toward protecting what matters most: your congregation.
Do review your church insurance policy. Several church insurance providers will allow for your organization to have a known sex offender at church. However, there is a well known church insurance company who has specific language within their insurance policy, that can make it nearly impossible to obtain coverage related to sexual misconduct coverage. This also includes, if the incident happened with someone other than the known sex offender. This church insurance company stipulates some strict requirements that are difficult to maintain, that the church must comply with as part of their policy form or coverage will be denied. It is vital, your church is working with church insurance brokers who specialize in church insurance and not owned by the insurance company. This will allow your church insurance agents to speak freely about the good and bad of a particular insurance company.
Will The Insurance Company Cancel Our Church Insurance Coverage When Allowing Known Sex Offenders At Church
A common concern across churches, is if they allow a known sex offender at church will the insurance company cancel their insurance policy. The short answer is maybe.
If your church has a history of abuse and molestation claims, the insurance company may cancel your insurance policy or may not be willing to offer that specific coverage. However, if you do not have a history of claims, the church insurance company will not typically cancel your insurance coverage.
We had a situation where the Pastors 18 year old son abused two girls who were part of the church organization. He was convicted of the crime and put into jail. In this instance, the church insurance company placed a clear exclusion on the policy related to that individual who was convicted.
This was primarily due to the fact that it was the pastor’s son, and the insurance company knew the son would be release from jail eventually. Due to the relationship, they required this individual to be specifically excluded by name.
We found this to be a reasonable exclusion and so did the church. Even in this difficult case, the insurance company was still willing to provide sexual misconduct coverage for the church. Even if this church allows known sex offenders at church in the future the only exclusion would be for the son.
Does Your Church Insurance Policy Have An Exclusion For Known Sex Offenders At Church
Most church liability insurance companies do not have an exclusion for known sex offenders at church. However, there is a well known nationwide insurance company who does. Many churches are currently insured with this insurance company and are not aware of this limitation found in their policy.
The insurance language found within their abuse and molestation coverage, is so limiting that a church would find it difficult to obtain coverage if not impossible. It not only limits coverage for known sex offenders at church, but also includes several other requirements the church must satisfy.
Spelled out in the policy form is a list of requirements a church must satisfy 100% of the time, or they would risk losing insurance coverage.
One such requirement stipulates a known sex offender at church, must be monitored at all times, the moment they touch the churches property line. It further implies the church is required to conduct background checks on all members and visitors of the church, or they risk their claim will be denied.
Most churches end up with this insurance company as their insurance premiums can look pretty attractive. They also have a company name that sounds appealing to churches.
They look and feel like they have great coverage limits, but it is not until you review the language within their policy that you discover you are paying for something you may not get.
It is important to work with an independent church insurance agency, and have them review your current policy for this specific language. You will also want to make sure the policy they are presenting does not have this language included within their policy.
It is critical to have an open discussion with your current agent along with any future insurance agent you come across for a church insurance quote. A church insurance agent who specializes in churches will be well verses in this language.
Does your church have a team of people to monitor known sex offenders at church? I am not aware of a single church that does, nor do they want too. You are in the business of ministering to people not tracking their every movement.
We Fight For Your Churches Insurance Coverage
Integrity Now Insurance Brokers, goes out of its way to ensure your church liability insurance coverage is best for you and not the insurance company. If your church is navigating whether to allow known sex offenders at church, we can help review your current church insurance coverage and let you know any concerns we may or may not have on your current coverages.
We are here to help your church obtain a sample abuse policy, that your church can custom tailor to meet your needs. We also provide our clients with the needed release forms, applications and many other church related safety documents they may need.
We are here to help provide insurance for smaller churches and large churches. We structure an insurance program that will meet your church organizations requirements.
If your church works with sex offenders at church who have repented and turned towards Jesus, you should not have to worry if you have coverage or not.
We at Integrity Now Insurance Brokers can help place your church with the best church insurance companies. Our professional agents help churches in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and Washington get the best group health insurance for churches they need for their church’s employees. Thanks to our experience, we offer a variety of services, including church property insurance, church liability insurance, church building insurance, workers’ compensation insurance for churches, employment practice liability insurance, directors and officers insurance, church bus insurance, and more.