Churches and "Liability"

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by TexasSky, Jul 22, 2005.

  1. TexasSky

    TexasSky
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    I was visiting the website of a church member and noticed they'd put a liability release form on the site, - which I totally understand, but it breaks my heart that we live in an age where our churches have to take such precautions.

    Its really getting on my nerves and I'm wondering if I'm the only one annoyed by it or how some of you deal with it?

    Examples of things that drove me nuts:

    1) When I was doing children's choir at a church, the main choral director informed us all that we were no longer allowed to touch kids in choir, as in give out hugs, because the church could be sued. I informed them that either they had to bend on it or I had to stop working with children. I can't not hug a crying child.

    2) I got a notice the mail recently - our church's insurance company is requiring everyone who works with children or young people to sign a consent to undergo a full background check. As I signed it I wondered about a lot of things like what happened to people who had bad things in their past before they came to know Christ? What kind of things were they looking were? Who had access to what information? How would it be used? And most of all - how had the world gotten into such a shape that it was needed?

    3) My church has "Sunday School" and "Extended Sessions." Meaning, the nursery is open during the sermon and we take turns working during that period. We've usually done this as a family. My kids are Red Cross certified in life-saving skills and first aide, but I was told that no one under the age of 18 was going to be allowed in the nursery anymore. Reason? - The insurance company.

    I'm getting rather tired of the insurance company.

    Anyone else feel the same? Have similar experiences? Where is the line?
     
  2. Petrel

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    I think the major concern with adults working with children is child molestation and possibly child abuse.

    I haven't had any experience with liability concerns about this lately, but several years ago when I was working in AWANA they started a new policy that two adults had to go with the kids to the bathroom.

    I do think it makes sense, unfortunately. Certainly if you're dealing with people who have been in the church for 20 years and raised their kids there you can be pretty sure that they aren't going to be dangerous around kids. But what about a new person who just joined last year, and seems pleasant and good with kids? You never really know. Almost all of the time people are what they appear, but there are times when they aren't. I do think that some pedophiles may use churches to get access to children because more and more secular businesses and clubs are running background checks, but churches are usually pretty trusting.

    If they are asking for people to sign a release for a background check, you ought to be able to find out who will see the information and how long it will be kept. If the church isn't providing this you might find the person who is in charge of the insurance and ask them to find out and include this information.

    I think that a person who has previously been convicted for some sort of sexual crime involving children should not be allowed to work around children even if that person has since become a Christian. Abnormal sexual urges aren't easily squelched, and allowing someone who has pedophilic urges to work with children is putting both the children and that person in danger.
     
  3. JamesBell

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    I think most churches are doing just about the same things. With the public attention that child abuse has received (especially cases within the Church) the church has to do things like this.

    While it is ridiculous for most church members to have to go through background checks just to work with children, there are reasons for it. There have been cases where a person takes interest in working with children, fully intending to abuse the kids. Then it comes out that the person in question had been in jail for the same crimes only months or years before.

    Sadly, things like this are necessary. I would be concerned about a church that didn't begin to do things like this.
     
  4. TexasSky

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    Okay -

    Next question - does that mean our membership committees need to be reviewed?
     
  5. JamesBell

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    It depends on the committee I would suppose. I mean, people do make mistakes (even horrible ones) and then come to the Lord. That person is a new creature. However, since we are unable to fully know the hearts of men, we still have to be careful. If there was a person with a history of child abuse that wanted to serve in the church, there are plenty of ways to serve that have nothing to do with children. That person could work with adults, help with one one of the ministries, etc. They just need to be kept away from the children.
     
  6. Deacon

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    Where I attend we have release forms that must be filled out prior to all special childrens events.

    The form includes:
    *WHO will be notified if an emergency occurrs. WHO the physician is that cares for the child.
    *TELEPHONE NUMBERS to locate the parents or caregivers.
    *INSURANCE INFORMATION to provide to those who need it.
    *A release saying that the church has the authority to care for the child in the parents absence.

    You shouldn't be nervous, you should be relieved, they are doing their job well.

    Regarding the second complaint:
    Sadly we have two Baptist churches in the Philadelphia area that have been in the news recently regarding staff charged with improper behaviour towards children.

    In another instance, a preditor was apprehended within the last 6 months. Information regarding a sister church's Sunday school setup was found in his possissions. YIKES
    Churches are great places for preditors to lurk.

    Good for the insurance company to insist that backgroung checks are necessary---your church leadership should have insisted this years ago!
    Have we not learned any lessons from the scandal in the Catholic church in Boston.

    IMO ALL ministry personel should be checked for prior criminal behaviour.

    Rob
     
  7. guitarpreacher

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    Sometimes spouses can be enablers, so it's better to use a buddy system (2 people present at all times, no one person ever alone with the children) and the buddies can't be husband and wife.
     
  8. guitarpreacher

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    btw, you should thank the insurance companies for pointing out areas where you are at risk. Most people today do have any reservation about suing a church, and many would view the church as a potential huge payday.

    You should probably check your insurance policy to make sure you are covered for abuse. Almost all policies will exclude coverage for intentional acts, and sexual/physical abuse would be considered an intentional act. If your insurance policy doesn't specifically give coverage for sexual/physical abuse, you are at risk if someone makes a claim. Remember, the lawyers cost the same whether you win or lose, so you can be innocent of the charges and still be banrupted defending yourself.

    If your policy is through a multiline, standard carrier (State Farm, Allstate, Farm Bureau, etc) as opposed to a company that specializes in churches, (Church Mutual, Brotherhood Mutual, GuideOne, etc) you're policy probably will not cover sexual/physical abuse you are at serious risk if someone makes a accusation.

    Even small churches can easily have lots of assests, and usually don't have much debt, and lawyers understand that and don't hesitate to go after your buildings and property.

    One last thought, if someone does make a charge of abuse at your church, the first two questions asked are, "Do you have written guidelines for people who work with children?" and "Do you get background checks on those who work with children? If a child is abused at your church and you have to say, "No we don't do background checks, and no we don't have guidelines for workers in the children's department" you are toast. And personally, I think that's the way it should be. If you don't care enough about the kids coming to your church to go above and beyond to insure their safety, you probably shouldn't be in children's ministry.
     
  9. menageriekeeper

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    Sign of the times, Texas Sky.

    If I were a predator, an unsuspecting church would be prime hunting grounds, what with all the bus kids coming in, and people dropping in and out. Pick the right kids from the right homes and I'd never be found out.

    Background checks are a good thing as far as they go. Our church did one last year. Of course all they had to do for me was walk down to the local Board of Ed and ask for the copy of the one they did on me a couple of years ago. If our schools recognize the danger of sexual predators, can we as churches ignore it? I don't think so.

    Of course, I'm with Joseph B on this one: sexual predators should be put to death on the first offense!
     
  10. TexasSky

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    It isn't really the background checks that bother me. Its "policies" like "don't hug children" and "no families working together" or "no youth working with young ones" that bother me.

    I understand that "buddy system" statement - but if you have background checks on both parties - why would that be an issue?

    Also - when I ran children's programs, no workers were ever ~really~ alone in the room. We (the leadership) used 1-way mirrors, and we checked on the rooms, as in sticking our heads in, frequently. With the 1-way mirrors, anyone in the church could check in on a room whenever they wanted.
     
  11. av1611jim

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    Remember the BTK killer?
    Hadn't he been a 'pillar' in the church for many years? While most of his victims were adults or young adults, if it was possible for him to 'hide' in church, then it would be so for a pedophile.

    Those policies you speak of TS are there to protect not just the children but to protect you and the church as well. Haven't you heard of all the damage even a false charge can do?

    It was a 'family' which carried out the abuses in a day care a few years ago in Wash. state. Therefore; keeping one family from dominating a particular ministry makes sense also. A little common sense goes a long ways in answering these concerns, you know?

    I think any policy to protect our children is good and right. We can never be too careful these days. I hate to say it like that. It makes me think of Chicken Little, nevertheless these are the times we are in.

    As in the days of Noah...

    Only evil continually...

    In HIS service;
    Jim
     
  12. Pete

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    Here in Oz when working with kids have to have a police background check before you start. Mum and self recently went to a "Protecting Our Future workshop" (see LINK) that gave a very good reason for that. The speaker said that recently (I don't recall the case, just did a web-surf and could not find details) a man was sentenced to jail in Victoria for what the Judge described as the worst child abuse case Australia has ever had. The offender worked his way through Churches in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria...He was driving bus in Baptist Churches...

    (I think one of the problems is that if someone walks into a Church and can quote John 3:16 and a couple of other verses we automatically think they are ok and let them teach Sunday school. As example at current and previous Church my parents and I walked in and not more than about a month later mum and self were out teaching Sunday school...)

    Thankfully as well as the bad news the POF workshop also gave great recommendations and systems to be put into place that would protect the kids as much as possible. Our Church AGM is in a few weeks, I hope to have new child protection system put into place at the AGM, then I'll quit Sunday school and re-apply for my spot under new system. I'm not about to make anyone do what I wouldn't do myself.

    One child is worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox, whatever it takes to keep them safer is ok by me.
     
  13. JamesBell

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    TS, I fully understand your complaints. However, we live in a world where things like this are needed. My church does not prevent husbands and wives from working together. This has always been both a blessing and potential trouble in my mind. Like guitarpreacher said, sometimes the spouse in an "enabler". Often one spouse feels they must protect the other, or they are both involved in the behavior. By splitting up the couple, you prevent at least those possibilities. Of course, many children come from broken homes. If they are in a class with a married couple they may see a loving relationship for the first time. This is very desirable to me, especially in VBS where we reach the unchurched youth. It is sad that we even have to consider things like this; but it is a fact of life in the world.
     

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