[Adopted Oct. 22, 2015]
Our commitment as Unitarian Universalists to the inherent worth and dignity of every person and to just and compassionate treatment compels us to balance our mission of radical welcome and inclusion with creating an environment that protects children and adults from harm and nurtures their spiritual growth while participating in our community.
Therefore, we strive to ensure that all who participate in our church life experience a safe, trustworthy, and supportive community, free from spiritual, emotional, sexual and physical threats. We pledge to conduct ourselves in a manner that conveys mutual respect and consideration and to maintain an environment free from discrimination and harassment based on ethnicity; national, geographical or historical origin; color; gender; physical or mental challenge or attributes; affectional or sexual orientation; gender identity; age; or class.
A standing Safer Congregation Committee shall assist the Board of Trustees and minister in achieving these commitments. The composition and duties of the committee are specified in a separate policy. The congregation shall be advised of the membership of the committee through publication in the church newsletter and on the church website.
UUCC is committed to being a congregation and workplace free from sexual harassment or sexual abuse of any kind. Any person in the congregation who has a concern about or knowledge of sexual harassment or sexual abuse involving a congregant or staff member of the congregation should bring that concern to the attention of a member of the Safer Congregation Committee. Concerns about sexual misconduct by a minister should be brought to the attention of the committee and the church president, who shall contact the appropriate denominational staff.
All staff including the minister shall have criminal background checks on file. Before they are hired, all new staff members shall complete a screening form and be subject to a criminal background checks. Criminal background checks shall be the responsibility of the minister, who may delegate this function to the church administrator. If a criminal background check reveals a history of one or more criminal offenses, the minister shall have the discretion to hire or not hire the prospective staff member; in exercising this discretion, additional information about the offense(s) may be obtained, and the minister may consult with the Safer Congregation Committee.
Ministers and staff members shall receive training on sexual misconduct prevention, handling sexual attractions, respecting boundaries, and offering pastoral responses to disclosure of past and/or present sexual misconduct.
All religious education teachers shall complete the screening form and sign the ethics policy before they begin teaching. All adults who provide services to children under the age of 18 shall have criminal background checks.
Volunteers for the religious education program must have attended the church for at least one year before serving in the program; however, the DRE in consultation with the chair of the Safer Congregation Committee shall have the discretion to waive this requirement based on the volunteer’s prior experience and recommendations. Volunteers working with high school youth must be at least 25 years old. Volunteers working with junior high or middle school youth must be at least 21 years old.
Minors who work in religious education shall be supervised by an adult and must attend an education session on child abuse prevention and sign the prescribed ethics form.
Each year, the director of religious education (DRE) shall compile a list of youth who are approved to babysit during congregational functions. Only approved babysitters shall be allowed to babysit and be paid for babysitting. All approved babysitters shall also attend a session on child abuse prevention, complete a screening form, and sign the prescribed ethics form. Babysitters shall also be encouraged to take a community babysitting course (i.e., Red Cross).
Training in sexual abuse prevention shall be conducted annually for all religious education volunteers. Information for children on child sexual abuse prevention shall be included annually in the K 2, 5 6 and 7-8 classes, and every other year in the high school class.
At all church activities involving youth under age 18 (classroom, worship, children and teen choir, youth group, youth outing etc.), there shall always be at least two unrelated adults present. There will be two adult teachers in all religious education classrooms at all times; this may necessitate a parent volunteer staying if one of the adult teachers is not present.
The DRE will rotate through all religious education classes on Sunday mornings.
Middle school and high school lock ins held at or sponsored by the church will follow denominational guidelines for safety at such events, including a group covenant that intimate sexual behaviors are not to occur at such events. The DRE will work with the youth group each year to establish a covenant that includes guidelines on romantic and sexual relationships within the group, physical displays of affection, and exclusive relationships within the youth group.
Any social media where the congregation has an official presence is open only to church participants who are 14 years old or older. Any youth group social media space shall be moderated by the DRE, and no sexual content shall be allowed. Adults participating in the church shall not friend unrelated minors without explicit permission of the minor’s parents. Parents must give written permission for the use or posting of any minor’s photos in any venue; tagging of minors’ photos is not allowed in any public venue. Photographing of minors at church events shall take place only with parental permission.
All drivers to religious education activities and all persons driving in connection with pastoral care (caring ministry) activities must provide copies of drivers licenses and liability insurance. Two unrelated adults must be in any car transporting unrelated minors. If this is not possible, there must be at least two unrelated children in a single driver’s car, and regular rest stops shall be coordinated with other drivers.
It is expected that members, friends, and regular participants in the life of the congregation, as well as staff members, renters or any other persons using the church building, who have a history of sexual misconduct, sexual abuse or other sexual offense, or who are the subject of an unresolved accusation of sexual misconduct/abuse/offense, will make that history or accusation known to the minister, who will follow the procedures below:
Any person who is the subject of an unresolved accusation of sexual misconduct of any kind shall be required to enter into a tailored limited access agreement and shall not participate in church life in any way until doing so. The Safer Congregation Committee shall be convened within 10 days of such a person being made known to the minister to develop the agreement (which may be subsequently revised upon receipt of additional information). If the accusation is determined to be unfounded, the limited access agreement shall terminate and the person may resume participation in the church without restriction.
Any person convicted of one or more sexual offenses or other sex-related incidents of misconduct, or who has a history of known sexual misconduct of any kind, shall be required to enter into a tailored limited access agreement and shall not participate in church life in any way until doing so. The Safer Congregation Committee shall be convened within 10 days of such a person being made known to the minister to develop the agreement (which may be subsequently revised upon receipt of additional information). In developing the agreement, the committee may consult with the person’s probation/parole officer and/or treatment provider(s) to determine whether the person can safely participate in the life of the congregation and what restrictions are appropriate.
Whether or not the incident was the subject of a criminal or juvenile court proceeding, adolescents or children known to have sexually abused or sexually assaulted another youth or child will be subject to a limited access agreement and may not participate in church life until entering into the agreement. Such agreements shall provide for adult supervised participation in religious education or youth group activities unless otherwise recommended by a therapist’s evaluation.
To the extent not in conflict with the foregoing, the church also shall follow the procedures outlined in “Balancing Acts: Keeping Children Safe in Congregations,” by the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, available at http://www.uua.org/leaders/leaderslibrary/balancingacts/index.shtml. These materials include a template for a limited access agreement.
This policy shall be posted on the church website and made known to the congregation at each annual meeting. Also at each annual meeting, the congregation shall be given a report of the number of persons participating in church life who have signed limited access agreements. All religious education volunteers shall receive a copy of this policy.
This policy shall be reviewed annually by the Safer Congregation Committee.