Let’s talk about one of those Big Pink Elephant in the Room subjects that no one wants to talk about. I’m referring to the issues of Sex Offenders and the local church. Early in my career in the field of Criminal Justice I spent several years working with exclusive sex offender populations. It was during those years that I realized that Sex Offenders were one of the few populations behind the walls of a correctional institution that were treated differently. I have since concluded that this is true for both behind the walls of a prison and on the streets of society.
Let’s be honest, sex offenders are definitely not treated nice in prison; as they are considered the low of the low. Many times they are treated equally as bad by their neighbors/society when they are released. Their names are placed on a sex offender registry for the rest of their lives and neighborhoods can pass out fliers and post signs notifying the entire neighborhood that a sex offender taken up residence in their neighborhood. The neighbors don’t generally sit around and sing the Mr. Rodgers theme song: ”It’s a beautiful day in the neighbor hood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood… Won’t you be my neighbor!” It’s more like: “Not In My Neighborhood, I Don’t Think So or I Know He Didn’t.” There seems to be a heightened sense of awareness with the recent release of corruption at Penn State, aka Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
We have come to understand that Sex Offenders are be treated differently in society and behind prison walls. The real question is “Should sex offenders be treated differently by the church and faith communities?” There is research that revealing sex offenders have a high propensity to re-offend, which tends to put everyone on red alert. Again, that’s why Sex Offenders are all in a national database and are required to register upon their release. There are over 728,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S.; Texas leads the nation with well over 63,000 registered sex offenders and Florida is a close second. If you put a truth serum in most Christians, they will tell you that they are uncomfortable around and even scared of sex offenders; especially when it comes to their children. Let’s face it, insurance companies even have exclusionary clauses for churches that hire or allow sex offenders to volunteer; in other words no coverage.
The church must play a critical role in helping sex offenders develop a relationship with Christ and become a Disciple of Christ. These are the true ingredience that will allow their lives to truly be restored, for them to rebuild severed relationships and for them to have freedom from the bondage of certain thoughts/behaviors/sin. The truth of the matter is that this same process can apply to each of us and our sinful nature!
I’m not saying that it’s right and I’m not sure that people will admit it, but I think most people, including Christians are uncomfortable around Sex Offenders.
Should Sex Offenders be allowed to be on staff, volunteer or be in a role that officially represents a church? Is it appropriate for Sex Offenders to volunteer w/ children? Share your thoughts!