Does Your Church Have Proper Sexual Harassment Guidelines?
The “#MeToo” movement has brought sexual harassment to the forefront of today’s society. Every day on TV, the radio, internet, or newspaper, someone new is coming forward with Sexual Harassment claims. It is without doubt that many if not most of these claims are true based upon the definition of Sexual Harassment as outlined in Section 703 of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is defined as:
(a) Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of section 703 of title VII. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
The Church is not Immune
While many are thrilled by women and men reporting acts of Sexual Harassment, many in the Church world do not understand or accept that the same thing happens in Churches all across this nation. In the recent case of Larry Nassar, infamous Olympic Physician who was found guilty of molesting several young female Olympians, Rachael Denhollander, a Nassar victim was shunned and ostracized by leaders within her Church for speaking out against the harassment.
I have knowledge of a Church in South Carolina where many women were subjected to Sexual Harassment by the Pastor of the Church. When the women were questioned, they each told the same story as to how the Pastor brain-washed them into thinking it was their duty to provide necessary services to him and those whom he chose, because of their “position” with God—it was defined as their way to be involved in ministry.
According to an article in https://religionnews.com/2014/01/09/startling-statistics/, 93% of sexual offenders define themselves as religious. According to www.adultsabusedbyclergy.org/statelaws.html only 13 states have laws making it a crime for the clergy to exploit parishioners for physical gratification.
In the case of a Memphis Pastor who was arrested for sexually abusing a 16 year old family member, it was determined that his parishioners had known of these actions by their Pastor for two years, but had chosen to sweep it under the rug, using the spiritual excuse, “Let’s pray for him.”
With more and more Sexual Harassment cases being exposed, it is time for the Church to take necessary action to implement a sound Sexual Harassment Policy and adhere to it. Although a sound policy may not stop all instances of Sexual Harassment, it can serve as a defense to liability.
A Sound Sexual Harassment Policy
Every Church, whether there are 10 members or 100,000 members should adopt and enforce a solid plan to limit Sexual Harassment liability. The plan should contain the following steps as the minimum guidelines.
- The Church must provide a clear definition of Sexual Harassment.
- Provide ample illustrations and examples of what may be construed as Sexual Harassment.
- There must be zero tolerance.
- Employees and members must understand that they have a duty to immediately report any incident in which they feel they have been subjected to Sexual Harassment.
- The policy must contain a clause that prohibits retaliation by the perpetrator or other members of the congregation or staff.
- Institute guidelines to keep the matter as discreet as possible to ensure the confidentiality of the abused and harassed. Inform the abused that you have an obligation to report any incidences (especially those involving a child) to law enforcement personnel.
- Have a clearly documented understandable Compliant Policy and ensure that all investigation of the incident is properly documented.
- Provide annual Sexual Harassment Prevention training for all staff and members.
Why You Need Us!
Chitwood & Chitwood is the ultimate Church management firm in the nation. We have been instructing and providing accounting and professional insight to Churches, Ministries, and Clergy for 80 years.
At our live Conferences across the nation we cover these and other areas which Churches should be knowledgeable of to prevent lawsuits and government infringement. Every Pastor, Pastor’s Spouse, Trustee, Elder, Deacon, Bookkeeper, and Church Leader should attend the next Church Management Conference. It will be the best investment you will ever make for your Church and Ministry. To register for an upcoming conference visit our website at www.cmtc.org or call 800-344-0076. We look forward to the opportunity to meeting and sharing with you the valuable information you need in this 21st Century Church environment.