Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Update on yesterday's post

A subsequent message from the parole officer I'd contacted about a sex offender who wanted to find out about visiting our church reveals that the state of Washington already has some pretty good restrictions in place for such people.

She advised me that in order to visit a place where youth and children congregate, a Level II offender must be in sexual deviancy treatment, must not have any violations while on parole, must have the permission of the parole officer, and must have an approved chaperone during the visit. She also encouraged me to give leaders a photo and information about the fellow, so that they can refuse him if he should try to visit without permission. She will notify me if he ever gets permission and what the conditions are. Then it's our job to become both welcoming and watchful, as long as he is in compliance.

I know that such systems are not always foolproof, but I feel reassured that there are procedures in place already to protect us and our children. I'm hopeful, too, that requiring one known sex offender to be in treatment, to be in compliance with the conditions of parole, to have the permission of his parole officer, and to have an approved chaperone whenever he visits a place where children and youth may be, that these conditions prevent one more kid from being exploited, prevent one more adult survivor from being thrown back into the hell of sexual abuse memories. I hope that this offender learns from the conditions imposed that, even though he may have been abused as a child, it is his responsibility to throttle the abusive nature that may be a result of that early abuse.

I hope he is wise enough to take the steps to prevent himself from abusing anyone else.


Chuck B. said...

Exceptionally well handled Ms K. In your other post you wondered about finding a place for the reforming predator and the victim.

Now that's an issue worthy of UU blogwide discussion. How can we found a place for a reforming predator and still remain faithful to all the seven principles?

I would say that while it may violate our ideas of congregational inclusion, the UU answer might be setting up a segregated congregation.

Hear me out! Segregation in anyform gets my back up too! I'm a super lefty liberal. The goal I would guess is spiritual nourishment, and healing for the predator; healing because many such predators are caught in a cycle as previous victims. Therefore, maybe the best answer is to set them aside with those dedicated to helping them.

A group of UU's dedicated to bringing forth a healing and building congregation to support such predators is a very UU idea.

That is of course if you believe that sex predators are capable of overcoming their urges.

Here's the thing though, no UU church would hold a congregation for recovering Alcoholic UU's in a liquor store, nor recovering narcotic UU's in a Pharmacy, so it makes sense to keep the predator away from his pray.

Now of course what if the predator is a serial adult rapist? Then, you would be discussing a congregation made up of the opposite gender of their victim. Though I would argue that some predators who "suffer" with borderline personality disorders just cannot be with people. The nature of their personality disorder would make their actually wanting spiritual nourishment highly unlikely.

Still, this would be a very good article for UU World.

Joel said...

so it makes sense to keep the predator away from his pray.

Chuck, is that a Freudian typo? :)

This sort of thing places any church in an awkward position, because almost by definition forgiveness is a religious requirement. (Applies to both your church and mine, anyway; other mileage may vary.) In tandem with that goes unconditional acceptance, which is hard to do when you're not allowed to let him in the door. You want to allow him every opportunity to put his past behind him, if that's truly what he's trying to do. To forbid him entrance to a church essentially negates the church's mission.

(This would be an interesting First Amendment can of worms for the Supreme Court to open, it seems to me.)

Is there someone in the congregation that could be prevailed on to be the chaperone, so that everyone else can simply accept him as he is without having to watch out the corner of their eye?

ms. kitty said...

It's a very tricky proposition indeed: forgiveness vs. safety of the congregation. I think safety comes before forgiveness but I expect that, if this fellow fulfills the conditions of his parole and comes to church, he will have a chaperone, though probably not from the congregation, as nobody knows him.

(The chaperone is a requirement of the state, via his parole officer.)

The whole idea of forgiveness is an interesting one as well. Do we have an obligation to forgive someone for his/her offenses toward an innocent person? Certainly I want to work to forgive someone who has hurt me; is it my work to forgive someone who has hurt a child or other person?

Joel said...

And is it anyone else's place to forgive him his actions toward another in the first place? It seems to me that the forgiveness can come from only two sources: the victim (for the damage done him/her) and God (for the sin). The offender owes nobody else any repentance at all.

Joel said...

Ironically, it occurs to me that if he were to present himself for confession at a Catholic church, he would be able to do so secretly. The priest would be prohibited from revealing that he'd even been there, even if he knew who the offender was.

ms. kitty said...

I think the offender owes society something because he/she has damaged the public trust.

ChuckB. said...

No...Joel, sometime a typo is a typo. Though what you get out of it is your own business. ;)

It's not a first amendment case because a church has the right to refuse him entrance. A predator does not have standing to sue.

I'm not so sure I agree with your position Joel as to the purpose of the church. Yes, forgiveness is a part of it, but this is a case of inherent danger. Protection of the children would seem to take precident before issues of forgiveness would arise. Just as a church would not allow someone who wanted vicious dogs in the pews, or a person who is openly violent, so to could particular predators be barred.

Just because the predator wouldn't be able to attend a congregation with children that existed within that church doesn't mean that a congregation couldn't be formed bereft of potential targets.

It would come down to the type of predator. A multiple recidivist goes back to my previous analogies about liquor stores, whereas a one time transgressor might fall within the category of forgiveness.

In the case of such transgressions, I tend to believe the criminal must get foregiveness from the victim first. I'm problably biased b/c I've known a lot of women who were abused, abuse so affects the core of a person that I cannot fathom even thinking of forgiving the person before the victim affords them grace, and even then it would be difficult for me.

I think Ms.K is also right, that there is a debt owed to society by the predator.

Joel said...

No...Joel, sometime a typo is a typo. Though what you get out of it is your own business. ;)

'Scuse me.. I have a sudden urge for a cigar. ;)

I think Ms.K is also right, that there is a debt owed to society by the predator.

I differ with you, owing probably to our respective theologies. I believe in original sin, which means that in an absolute sense, I am no better than that offender. If he owes society some kind of restitution or penance, then every individual that makes up society owes him in equal measure. The difference between him and me is not the wrongness of our sins, but the subjective repugnance with which they are viewed by other people.

A UU, not being constrained by a belief in original sin, would feel more able to hold him responsible to other people for the damage he has done society. I cannot.

Masasa said...

I haven't read your other post yet, but was moved to relief with this one (having just faced a seemingly VERY similar situation in my congregation recently, but without such protections in place).

ms. kitty said...

Unitarian Universalists believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person but acknowledge that a person can be damaged by his/her early experiences to the extent that s/he chooses "sinful" or hurtful behavior instead of "sinless" or life-enhancing behavior.

We believe that a child is born with the capacity for both good and bad behavior and that the community/family/environment in which the child grows up helps to develop a nature which tends more to the good or bad.

And, of course, we all do bad things on occasion, even when we were raised right!

But no, you're right, Joel, UUs do not believe in original sin. We are universalist in our faith, believing that a loving God does not damn any of God's children.

Whew, how's that for a UU 101 lesson?

Chuck B. said...

Just a quick note:

Ms K? An awsome elevator speech!!

Joel? LOL.