Safe Congregation Policy

Adopted by the Board of Trustees on October 19, 2003

Updated October, 2014

 I. Opening Statement

 While openness to a wide variety of individuals is one of the prime values held by Unitarian Universalists and is expressed in our denomination’s Principles and Purposes, we affirm the belief that our congregation must maintain a secure atmosphere so that such openness can exist.  A healthy balance must be maintained between individual rights and the rights and safety of the community.  Because children are especially vulnerable, we recognize the enormous responsibility this congregation bears to protect their safety.  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.  If a person demonstrates dangerous, disruptive or offensive behavior to the extent that it jeopardizes the safety or well being of the congregation or any person in it, we pledge to take swift and appropriate measures to protect the integrity of this fellowship.

II. Responding to Disruptive Behavior

 There have been times when the disruptive behavior or offensive language of an individual within the church community has led members to voice their concerns about one or more of the following: 

  1. Perceived threats to the safety of any adult or child;
  2. The disruption of church activities;
  3. Violation of our UUFD Covenant and/or compromising the healthy development of congregational life to its potential and existing membership.
  In dealing with these issues, the following shall apply:
  1.  If any person has a concern for the physical well being of self or others, contact the police at 911. 
  2.  If another response is required, it will be undertaken by the Minister, if available, and/or the leader of the group involved.  This may include asking the offending person or persons to leave, or suspending the meeting or activity until such a time as it can safely be resumed.  If further assistance is required, the police department may be called.  At any time when any of these actions are undertaken without the Minister being present, the Minister must be notified as soon as possible after the event.  The Ministry Council shall also be notified.

  Situations not requiring immediate response will be referred to the Minister and the Ministry Council. The Ministry Council will respond in terms of their own judgment and shall observe the following: 

  1. The Ministry Council will respond to problems as they arise.  There will be no attempt to define “acceptable” behavior in advance.
  2. Persons identified as disruptive will be dealt with as individuals in a respectful and nonjudgmental manner. 
  3. The Ministry Council will collect and review all necessary information, including a statement or statements made by the accused.
  4. To aid in evaluating the problem, the following points will be considered:
    Dangerous – Is the individual the source of a threat or perceived threat to persons or property?
    Disruptive – How much interference with church functions is going on?
    Disturbing – How likely is it that prospective or existing members will be driven away?
  5. To determine the necessary response, the following points will be considered:
    Causes – Do we know why is the disruption occurring?  Possibilities to consider include:  Conflict, stress, illness, mental illness, loss, addictions, etc.
    History – What has been the frequency, duration, and degree of disruption caused in the past?
    Probability of Change – How likely is it that the problem behavior will diminish in the future?  What might the congregation do to alleviate contributing factors?
  6. The Ministry Council will decide on the necessary response on a case-by-case basis.  In determining what actions will be taken, the Ministry Council shall pursue the lowest appropriate level to resolve the situation.  The following three levels of response are recommended: 

 LEVEL ONE:

The Minister and a Ministry Council member shall meet with the accused to communicate the concern.  The Minister shall document the meeting and keep a confidential file.

  LEVEL TWO: 

      • The accused is granted limited access or is excluded from the church and/or specific church activities for a period of time.
      • Reasons and the conditions of return are communicated in writing. 
      • Any violation of the conditions will result in progression to LEVEL THREE action.  After the probation period has elapsed, the Ministry Council will evaluate the situation.  If the conditions of return have not been met, yet further violations have not occurred, the probation period may be extended. 
      • The Ministry Council, the Board of Trustees, staff members and committee chairs must be informed of the probation and its conditions.  Disclosure of this information to non-staff and congregational members will be at the discretion of church leadership.
      • Any action taken under this policy against the accused will be communicated within 30 days.  
      • Any action taken under item (6) above may be appealed to the Board of Trustees.  The request for an appeal must be made to the Board of Trustees within 30 days from the date of notification of the Level Two decision by the Ministry Council.  The Board shall act on the request for an appeal expeditiously. 

LEVEL THREE:

      • Pending the outcome of an investigation, the accused is granted limited access or is excluded from the church and/or specific church activities.
      • Before permanent exclusion from the church premises and all church activities is determined, the Ministry Council will consult with the Minister and the Board of Trustees.  If it is decided that expulsion will take place, a letter from the Board and Minister detailing the expulsion will be sent. 
      • Adult members of the congregation will be informed of the expulsion. 
      • If the offending individual violates the expulsion, civil and criminal remedies may be pursued.  

 III.  Proactive Measures

  1. Persons hired at UUFD will be subject to a basic background check including a screening of the state’s Sex Offender Registry. 
  2. A Sexuality Education & Healthy Church training will be held for UUFD staff, leaders and all Religious Education volunteers on an annual basis – through a scheduled workshop or as part of the Leadership Council education sessions.  Staff, leaders, and volunteers are required to attend.
  3. The UUFD Safe Congregation Policy and addendums (ex: Fact Sheet, Code of Ethics) will be posted on the UUFD website and copies will be available in the Fellowship Hall. 
  4. All staff and volunteers who work in the Religious Education program or who serve at an event or program with children or youth will sign the UUFD Code of Ethics. Signed and dated copies of the Code of Ethics will be kept in the UUFD main office.