Would you accept a child molester in your church?

I’m not sure if this should have gone into GD or IMHO, but since I’m essentially just asking people for their opinions, I’m going to go with IMHO.

I just wonder, in this hypothetical situation, what people would do.

Assume that a confessed child molester has applied to be a member of your church (whatever your particular church happens to be). You are informed that whenever he is on church premises, he will be accompanied by another person, and he will never be out of sight of that person. He is not permitted to be within ten feet of a child for more than ten seconds. (The ten-second thing gives him time to move away if a child unknowingly crosses his path or walks up to him or whatever.) The man is definitely guilty and says that he regrets what he did and will never do anything like it again. Also, his crime was not “predatory” in that the children involved lived in the house with him. (Not that this excuses what he did, but apparently there is a distinction in child molesting cases between “predatory” child molesters who actually seek out children to molest, and guys who just make use of the opportunity to molest kids in their own home.)

Would you say that this person should be allowed to join your church, or not?

In case you couldn’t guess, this is an actual situation that’s come up within my own church, and the debate has been pretty divisive, to say the least. I’m just curious to see what other people would do in this situation. I should also add that when I say “church” I really mean any community of faith, whether you call it a “church” or something else.

It happened; a guy joined our church (well, started attending, which is all you have to do, unless you want formal membership) that my sister knew from way back. He became quite active in the church and would often speak up with a ‘word from the Lord’ in meetings. He expressed a desire to get involved with teaching the Sunday school kids and it was at this point my sister informed me of his history; he had been convicted and had served time for some sort of crime involving sex and children (I didn’t press for details).

Anyway, she advised the leaders to be cautious of him, which advice they were grateful of, but they were cautious anyway; it would be most unusual for a newcomer to be given a position of responsibility straight away.

Anyway, the problem was brought to an end because he attempted to sexually assault a child (not at church; it happened in the city somewhere); he was arrested and sent to prison.

Hm, I should clarify. The question before the members of the congregation isn’t whether to allow him to officially join as a full member, but just whether or not to even let him show up on Sundays. I’m not sure if that was clear in my OP or not.

The conditions you have described would make me willing to attend this person’s church. This person would probably present less of a danger than others who would not be watched so closely. I tend to think that this problem is bigger than most of us realize. I want to suggest that many, many churches have child molesters in attendance. Sorry if that sounds cynical.

I do not mean to imply that child molesters are making up the big population of church-goers. I just think that we are interacting with them in all kinds of situations. We just don’t know it. So, I think it would be good for a child molester to be involved in church. This person would need to be watched soooooo closely. I would feel kind of creepy sitting next to someone that I knew to be guilty of this predator lifestyle. Maybe others would be more forgiving. CREEPY.

This is a hard one. I would say let him attend, only because it is a church thing, if it were a club or something of that sort I would say no way. The difference, to me, is that the person is asking for forgiveness from god (well at least if he’s a christian, and he honestly wants to attend church).

I would say certainly, under the conditions given. The Church is for everyone.


Do you mean as a member of the congregation or as a priest?

If it was my church I would say let him attend. As long as he is watched like you said he was and follows the ten-second rule I can see no danger from him. Also if this was my church to reject him and exclude him from the community would be in violation of one of the dearest tenets of my Church, forgiveness. Any parish that rejected his presence would lose me as a member.

Churches are for everyone, even rotten sinners. Under the conditions you describe, and assuming that he has paid his debt to society, then he should be allowed in, IMO. Everyone gets a chance for forgiveness, and it’s God’s job, not mine, to judge (thank goodness).

Sadly, I have to agree with jacksen–I’m sure that there are people with similiar tendencies all over the place.

Depends on what you mean by “child molestor”. Sometimes a poor sap gets labeled that for having sex with a 17 year old who consents.

If I recall correctly, the Bible says to forgive. Turn the other cheek, seventy times seven times, you get the picture… so not accepting somebody in even after they have paid their debt to society with several years in prison would be to go against Christianity.

We had a young man in our church some years ago in this situation. He had a history in another state which none of us – save our pastor and his sister – were fully apprised of. All we knew about “Paul” was that he was very smart, had studied literature years ago, but his education was derailed and he had fallen on many hard times, had been in jail, and wasn’t having an easy time getting back on his feet.

In time, we saw that he was determined to stay on the straight and narrow. It became clear, (well, it’s clear in hindsight, with the knowledge I have now) that he had definite pedophiliac tendencies and couldn’t stand to be in the presence of the little kids, especially the little girls. When they were around, he’d promptly excuse himself to another place. (It was a very small church, only fifty or so adults and maybe a dozen kids.) If we were in the foyer talking, and a child approached, he’d quickly head back into the sanctuary. He never went into the fellowship hall, where the children had Sunday School classes and tended to “hang out” after services while the adults visited with one another in the foyer or sanctuary.

Before anyone knew about his molestation history, we were aware that he had “problems,” though I think everyone thought he just had substance abuse issue. In any case, everyone became very understanding that he would sometimes suddenly leave a conversation or decide to go sit down alone to get himself together, especially if the little kids came buzzing around.

Unfortunately, he was “outed” as a child molestor thanks to Megan’s Law. Police officers went around his neighborhood with flyers giving all of his personal information (including his home phone number, which resulted in a spate of late night hang-up calls and anonymous threats) and basically embarrassed him into hiding. (The fact that it was sweeps month and one of the local tv stations decided to make him the centerpiece of a ratings-grabber story about Megan’s Law reporting didn’t help at all.) He quit coming to church, afraid that the parents there would reject him, even though everyone (and I mean every single person) in the congregation knew that he had done nothing improper and was, in fact, working hard to battle his demons and turn his life around. We also felt at the time that we were small enough that it wouldn’t be too difficult to help “police” the situation, and as new parents came into the congregation with their kids, we could explain things to them as necessary.

We drafted a letter which was signed by all of the parents in the church, our congregational leadership and whoever else wanted to sign, (I think everyone did) that said that we supported him in his efforts at rehabilitation and change, that we had seen the evidence that he did not want to return to his former ways, and we knew how hard he was working to find ways to be a part of society again. We made it clear that we would welcome him (and his sister, who had also stopped attending services out of embarrassment) back at any time, and we would continue to support him and help him in any way that we, as his Christian family, could.

But he was shamed, and he never came back, which really breaks my heart. Many of us went to visit on occasion, and he would ask that we didn’t, because it was too hard for him, he felt too guilty that he hadn’t told us about his past himself. He just didn’t know how to cope, even though we all extended our forgiveness and our help. Our pastor still goes to visit with him on occasion – he is monitored by his sister and their very elderly mother, and hasn’t offended again, but he drinks a lot, and has lost any hope he may have ever had. The only reason that he hasn’t committed suicide, he says, is because his disability money (it has determined that he is psychologically incapable of working) is needed to help pay the household expenses, and without it, his mother and sister would have to move from the house that they have lived in for nearly 40 years, and he can’t do that to them.

It has been about three years since Paul left our congregation, and it still makes me very upset and teary to think about how we might’ve done things differently to create a better outcome for him.

MsWhatsit, I heartily encourage - especially given the conditions that this person would accept - that you do not turn this person away from your church, an institution which is founded upon the very principle of accepting the broken, the sick, the damaged and sinful and helping them to right their ways. Help him as best you (group you) can, and try to keep him from ending up like Paul, please.

To answer a few questions:

Yes, he would be a member of the congregation, and not a priest.

This was not consensual sex with a 17-year-old. There were three girls in question, between the ages of 6 and 10. I don’t have further specific details except that no actual “rape” i.e. penetration occurred.

Now that a few people have already expressed their opinions, I will express mine, which is that I feel he should be allowed as a member of the congregation. I feel very strongly about this. It would one thing if the guy were still a danger to the children of the congregation, but I think it’s completely obvious that he won’t be. He’ll be followed around continually, and besides, I’ve heard him speak and answer questions from the assembled congregation, and I honestly believe that he is sorry for what he did and doesn’t intend to ever repeat it.

I was frankly shocked that there were people who felt that he shouldn’t be allowed to attend. I mean, this is incredibly hackneyed and trite, but really, what WOULD Jesus do? I don’t think he’d say, “Sorry, you’ve committed The Unforgivable Sin and therefore the doors of the church are forever closed to you.”

I was raised as a Catholic, broke with the Church when I was 17, and for 8 long years had no chosen affiliation and even for awhile thought I might be atheist. The church I’ve found (I’m being deliberately vague in an attempt not to identify the guy in question – a slim chance, but you never know) really speaks to my heart, and I’ve felt strongly that I belong there. Now I’m not so sure. This issue is really tearing me apart. On the one hand, this church feels so incredibly right, and on the other hand, what some of the members of the congregation believe regarding how we should forbid this guy from attending feels incredibly wrong.

I would like to continue to hear the opinions of others, whether agreeing or disagreeing with what’s been said already. I’ve been giving this issue a lot of thought lately.

The fact that you even have to ask the question is one-out of many–reasons why I do not belong to a church and can only bring myself to enter the things for weddings, funerals, or for some art-historical reason.

Just to clarify my earlier post “Churches are for everyone, even rotten sinners”-- That was kind of a joke, since churches that only let in perfect people would be empty churches.

MsWhatsit, I do understand your frustration, but hey–I guess we’ll have to work on forgiving those people, since they are sinners too. Loving your fellow church members, despite how annoying and offensive they can sometimes be, is one of the things I work on–and then work on some more… :stuck_out_tongue:

Odds are you’re already accepting one or more child molesters in your church, as a poster said earlier this is more common than one thinks.

Ah, in that case, it’s an unqualified yes; a person must present themself before God - it’s not up to the church to decide who is good and who is bad - attempts to do this in the past have not worked out well.

The only exceptions I can think of for barring a person would be if we had real reason to believe that person was attending in order to harm someone else or be deliberately disruptive.

Here’s a link to the (UK) Methodist Church policy on Safeguarding.

Well, I say throw him out and stone him on the steps of the church. What is the world coming to when we let sinners into a church?

It’s a shame you feel that way since every one of the responses in this thread have been quite reasonable and moderate (except the one from ShadowWarrior, which I think I’m right in interpreting as tongue-in-cheek).

How would you prefer the church handled this issue?

:smack: sorry, should have out a few :wink: 's or :smiley: 's in… it was indeed intended to be tongue-in-cheek comment. I firmly believe that anybody should be allowed both to enter and become a member of a church, whatever they may have done. My understanding is that one sin is pretty much as bad as another in God’s eyes, so if I’m allowed in with all the stuff I’ve done, then so should anyone else.

I would let him in my church given the conditions in the OP. Other have said it better but church is for sinners.