[Adopted Oct. 22, 2015]
While openness to a wide variety of individuals is one of the prime values held by our congregation and expressed in our denomination’s purposes and principles, we affirm the belief that our congregation must maintain a secure atmosphere where such openness can exist. When any person’s physical and/or emotional well being or freedom to safely express his or her beliefs or opinions is threatened, the source of this threat must be addressed firmly and promptly, even if this ultimately requires the expulsion of the offending person or persons.
Disruptive behavior can cause disruption of church activities, actual or perceived threats to the safety of adults and children, and diminution of the appeal of the church to existing and potential members.
Disruptive behavior shall be dealt with as follows:
1. If an immediate response is necessary, it shall be undertaken by the minister, if available, and/or the leader of the group involved. This may include asking the offending person(s) to leave, or suspending the meeting or activity until such a time as it can safely be resumed. If further assistance is required, the Columbia Police Department may be called to remove the offending person(s). The minister shall be notified of the action taken if the minister is not present at the time. A letter shall be sent by the minister to the offending person(s) detailing what steps must be taken before the offending persons(s) will be allowed to return to the church.
2. Situations not requiring immediate response shall be referred to the minister, who shall involve the Peace Building Team:
a. The minister and Peace Building Team shall respond to problems as they arise. There will be no attempt to define “acceptable” behavior in advance.
b. Persons identified as disruptive shall be dealt with as individuals; stereotypes shall be avoided.
c. The minister and Peace Building Team shall collect all necessary information.
d. To aid in evaluating the problem, the following points will be considered:
Danger: Is the individual the source of a threat or perceived threat to persons or property?
Disruptiveness: How much interference with church functions is going on?
Offensiveness: How likely is it that prospective or existing members will be driven away?
e. To determine the necessary response, the following points shall be considered:
Causes: Why is the disruption occurring? Is it a conflict between the individual and others in the church? Is it due to a professionally diagnosed condition of mental illness?
History: What is the frequency and degree of disruption caused in the past?
Probability of Change: How likely is it that the problem behavior will diminish in the future?
f. The minister and Peace Building Team will decide on the necessary response on a case-by-case basis. However, the following three levels of response are recommended:
Level One: The minister and/or a member of the Peace Building Team shall meet with the offending individual to communicate the concern.
Level Two: The offending individual shall be excluded from the church and/or specific church activities for a limited period of time, with reasons and the conditions of return made clear.
Level Three: The offending individual may be permanently excluded from the church premises and all church activities. Before this is carried out, the minister and Peace Building Team shall consult with the Board of Trustees. If it is decided that permanent exclusion shall take place, a letter shall be sent by the minister explaining the exclusion and the individual’s right to appeal.
g. Any action taken under item f. above may be appealed to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia strives to be an inclusive community, affirming our differences in beliefs, opinions and life experiences. However, concern for the safety and well being of the congregation as a whole must be given priority over the privileges and inclusion of the individual. To the degree that disruptive behavior compromises the health of this congregation, our actions as people of faith must reflect this emphasis on safety and well-being.