Policy Prohibiting Abuse, Exploitation, Harassment, and Discrimination

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The Amherst Congregational United Church of Christ, as a community of Christian faith, is committed to creating and maintaining programs, facilities and a community in which members, friends, staff, and volunteers can worship, learn, and work together in an atmosphere free from all forms of intimidation, abuse, exploitation, harassment, and discrimination. All persons associated with the Amherst Congregational United Church of Christ should be aware that the Church is strongly opposed to and will not tolerate harassment or discrimination on any basis including sex, race, color, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, or any other factor protected by law and that such behavior is prohibited by Church policy. The Church’s intention is to take action in an attempt to prevent and correct behavior that is contrary to this policy and, if necessary, to discipline those persons who violate this policy. Any such violation shall be reported to the Church’s Response Team.

Ministerial Conduct

Consistent of our understanding of the priesthood of all believers, all Authorized Ministers, employees, elected and appointed lay leaders, volunteers, and authorized volunteers are Ministers to the congregation.

The policy of the Amherst Congregational United Church of Christ is to encourage its Ministers to nurture safety within Ministerial Relationships by being attentive to self-care, providing education, maintaining appropriate boundaries, and referring those in need to supportive and helpful resources.

Abuse, exploitation, harassment, or discrimination of parishioners or others by anyone engaged in ministry on behalf of the Amherst Congregational United Church of Christ is unethical behavior and will not be tolerated within this congregation.

Requirements for Child and Youth Ministry

The Amherst Congregational United Church of Christ is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment in which young people can learn about and experience God’s love.

The Church has established the following guidelines, in addition to the general requirements for ministry to the Church, in order to promote this environment.

  • We expect those who volunteer to work with minors will have been members of the Amherst Congregational United Church of Christ for at least six months or, if not members, be regularly and frequently associated with the Amherst Congregational United Church of Christ for at least a year. A new pastor and youth minister/director hired to work with the Church’s children and youth shall be exceptions to this rule since any new pastor shall have a criminal background check done as part of the search process
  • All Volunteers, members and non-members, who regularly work with children and youth will complete and submit an Employment/Authorized Volunteer Application and Disclosure Form and undergo a criminal background check.
  • All prospective employees, before beginning their duties, will undergo a background check, including but not necessarily limited to inquiries of references and a criminal background check.
  • All volunteers and employees who regularly work with children and youth will receive orientation regarding safe Church policy and procedures.
  • All programs involving children and youth shall always include adequate supervisory personnel, with at least two adults working with each group. Supervision shall be maintained before and after each event until all children are in the custody of their parents or legal guardians. In Sunday school classes where only one teacher is present, to make adequate supervision possible, doors shall remain open while classes are in session, and before and after classes. When only one student is in attendance for a Sunday school class, that class shall be combined with another class. Youth 12 years of age or older may assist adults in supervising children and youth activities.
  • Two-Adult Rule. Two adult supervisors shall be present at every Church activity attended by children or youth. The policy of this Church is to avoid a situation where an adult and a child/youth are one-on-one. This is for the protection of the child and adult.
  • Confirmation instruction will be held only when there is at least one other adult in the building. The door to the room where confirmation instruction is taking place will remain open.
  • Parents must be notified beforehand if anything of a sexual nature will be taught in a Sunday School class or formally discussed at a Youth Group function.
  • Written consent of one parent or guardian of a minor will be required for any overnight activities and all activities off the Church property.
  • All chaperones for overnight activities involving children or youth shall be cleared in advance with the pastor or the Board of Christian Education. No last-minute additions or substitutions of chaperones shall be permitted.

Definitions

Minister: A person authorized by the Church to carry out its ministry. Ministers include elected or appointed leaders of the Church, employees, volunteers and Authorized Ministers.

Authorized Minister: A person who holds ordained ministerial standing or has been commissioned or licensed by an Association of the United Church of Christ.

Authorized Volunteer: A person who has submitted an Authorized Volunteer Application and Disclosure Form, has undergone a criminal background check, and has been accepted by the Church as an Authorized Volunteer.

Ministerial Relationship: The relationship between one who carries out the ministry of the Church and the one being served by that ministry.

Child/Youth: As used in this document, covers all persons under the age of 18 years.

Child Neglect: Failure to provide necessary food, clothing, shelter, education, or medical care, when reasonably able to do so. Failure to protect a child from danger, when reasonably able to do so, or actions that seriously endanger the child’s physical or mental health. Medical neglect, which includes but is not limited to, the withholding of medical treatment to a disabled infant with a life-threatening condition.

Child Abuse: A child has suffered an injury that appears to be non-accidental in nature. A child has suffered a physical injury as a result of hazardous conditions uncorrected by a parent or guardian. A child has suffered physical injury due to inadequate supervision by a parent or guardian. There is substantial likelihood that a child will imminently suffer physical injury.

Child Sexual Abuse: Any sexual activity with a child, whether in the home by a caretaker, in a day-care situation, a foster/residential setting, or in any other setting, including on the street by a person unknown to the child. The abuser may be an adult, an adolescent, or an older child, provided the child is four years older than the victim.

Discrimination: Discrimination occurs when decisions are made concerning a person based on sex, race, color, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, or any other factor protected by law, rather than one’s qualifications for employment or job performance.

Sexual Exploitation: Sexual activity or contact (not limited to sexual intercourse) in which a Minister engaged in a ministerial relationship with another takes advantage of the vulnerability of the person being served by causing or allowing that person to engage in sexual behavior with the Minister.

Sexual Harassment: Repeated or coercive sexual advances toward another person contrary to his or her wishes. It includes behavior directed at another person with the intent of intimidating, humiliating, or embarrassing the other person, or subjecting the person to public discrimination. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition or circumstance of instruction, employment, or participation in any Church activity.
  • Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for evaluation in making personnel or Church-related decisions affecting an individual.
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or participation in Church activities or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or Church environment. Prohibited sexual harassment includes unsolicited and unwelcome contact that has sexual overtones, particularly:
    • Written contact, such as sexually suggestive or obscene letters, notes, e-mails, or invitations;
    • Verbal contact, such as sexually suggestive or obscene comments, threats, slurs, epithets, jokes about gender-specific traits, sexual propositions;
    • Physical contact, such as intentional touching, pinching, brushing against another’s body, impeding or blocking movement, assault, coercing sexual intercourse; and
    • Visual contact, such as leering or staring at another’s body, gesturing, displaying sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons, posters, or magazines.

Sexual harassment also includes continuing to express sexual interest after being informed directly that the interest is unwelcome and using sexual behavior to control, influence, or affect the career, salary, work, learning or worship environment of another. It is impermissible to suggest, threaten, or imply that failure to accept a request for a date or sexual intimacy will affect a person’s job prospects, Church leadership, or comfortable participation in the life of the Church. It is forbidden either to imply or actually withhold support for an appointment, promotion, or change of assignment, to suggest that a poor performance report will be given because a person has declined a personal proposition; or to hint that benefits, such as promotions, favorable performance evaluations, favorable assigned duties or shifts, recommendations or reclassifications, will be forthcoming in exchange for sexual favors.

Procedures for Handling Complaints of Abuse, Exploitation, Harassment or Discrimination

A. The Moderator each year will choose no less than two members, one male and one female, to serve on a subcommittee with the Authorized Minister, Moderator and Assistant Moderator in preparation for the possibility of hearing complaints under this policy. The subcommittee, hereinafter referred to as “The Response Team,” will be familiar with the terms of this policy, as well as the established procedures of the Church for dealing with a complaint.

B. Several approaches may be taken in addressing incidents of alleged abuse, exploitation, harassment, or discrimination:

1. The complainant can attempt to resolve the matter directly with their respondent, the individual accused.

2. The complainant can report the incident to the Authorized Minister, in an effort to resolve the matter informally.

3. If an informal resolution of the complaint does not seem wise, appropriate, possible, or does not succeed, the complainant may request that the Response Team institute formal proceedings which shall include the following steps:

a. Any member of the Response Team who has been alerted to a claim has the authority and responsibility to convene the team. The Response Team will convene as soon as possible, but within 24 hours. The Response Team shall advise the Authorized Minister of the receipt of all complaints and shall keep him/her apprised of ongoing steps and actions taken. If the Authorized Minister is the subject of the complaint, this notice shall not apply to that person. If a member of the Response Team is the subject of the complaint, that member will step down and another team member will be appointed by the Moderator or the Assistant Moderator if the Moderator is the subject of the complaint. All complaints and information collected shall remain confidential , with information released only on a “need to know” basis.

b. The Response Team shall gather statements or other information from the individuals involved in the alleged abuse, exploitation, harassment, or discrimination and from others who may have pertinent information, such as qualified professional consultants.

c. The Response Team shall make determinations and take actions appropriate to resolve the matter. These may include:

1. finding that abuse, exploitation, harassment, or discrimination has occurred, and that appropriate action must be taken; such action may include one or more of the following:

(i) a formal reprimand, with defined expectations for changed behavior;

(ii) recommending or requiring psychological or psychiatric assessment, counseling and/or treatment;

(iii) probationary standing, with the terms of the probation clearly defined;

(iv) dismissal from employment or authorized volunteer position by, affiliation with, or membership in, the Church.

2. finding that abuse, exploitation, harassment or discrimination did not occur.

d. The Response Team may seek the advise of legal counsel or others to advise it in performing its functions.

C. A written summary of the Response Team proceedings in such cases will be maintained in a dedicated locked file with access limited to the Authorized Minister, Moderator, or Assistant Moderator. All complaints and information collected shall remain confidential with information released only on a “need to know” basis.

D. The person to whom the inappropriate behavior is directed need not be the complainant. Moreover, neither consent nor acquiescence will excuse or exonerate inappropriate behavior. The Church may at any time initiate or proceed with the formal complaint process.

E. Consideration shall be given to the record of the alleged incident(s) as a whole and to the totality of the circumstances, including the context in which the alleged incident(s) occurred, in determining whether alleged conduct constitutes abuse, exploitation, harassment or discrimination.

F. Any person bringing an abuse, exploitation, harassment, or discrimination complaint or assisting in investigating such a complaint will not be adversely affected in terms and conditions of employment or Church membership or affiliation, or otherwise discriminated against or discharged.

G. If the complainant or respondent is not satisfied with the disposition of the matter by the Response Team, he or she has the right to appeal to the Moderator, or the Assistant Moderator if the Moderator is the subject of the complaint, who shall refer the matter to the Church Council. The subject of any such appeal to the Church Council shall be limited solely to whether the procedures of this policy were followed. The matter will not be reconsidered on the merits and the decision of the Church Council will be the final resolution of the matter. If the Church Council determines that the procedures of this policy were not followed, it will refer the matter back to the Response Team to complete the processing of the complaint in accordance with these procedures.

Child Neglect, Abuse, or Sexual Abuse

A Minister of the Church who becomes aware of facts or circumstances that child neglect, abuse or sexual abuse has occurred or that there exists a substantial risk that child neglect, abuse, or sexual abuse may occur in the reasonably foreseeable future, apart from any legal requirements, shall immediately report the matter to the Authorized Minister and Moderator so that the Church may take appropriate action in a timely manner. The Amherst Congregational United Church of Christ will, apart from any legal requirements, make a report to the appropriate authorities if at any time the Church has reasonable cause to believe that a minor may be a neglected or abused child, including but not limited to,

Lorain County Children’s Services
266 Middle Avenue
Elyria, Ohio 44035
Phone: 440-329-5340 8 – 4:30 M – F
440-329-2121 after hours
Fax: 440-329-5378
National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-422-4453 (if the child is not a resident of Lorain County).

Clergy

Allegations of behavior that call into question the fitness for ministry of any Authorized Minister, apart from any disposition of the matter by the Church, will be promptly forwarded to the Church and Ministry Committee of the Western Reserve Association of the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ at, 216-749-3116.

Insurance

The Church’s insurance company must be contacted within 60 days of a suit that has been brought against the Church or a defensible incident that may result in a suit.

At the date of the writing of this policy the Church’s insurance carrier is:

The Church Mutual Insurance Company
3000 Schuster Lane
Merrill, Wisconsin 54452
800-554-2642
www.churchmutual.com
Policy Number: 0230418-81-740070