Ky. Voices: Many reasons sex offenders not welcome in churches

June 17, 2013 

Jim Clark of Lexington is a retired locomotive engineer.

James Robert Ross, who described himself as a marriage-and-family therapist and as a "professional credentialed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky to assess and treat sex offenders," berated his church leaders for not welcoming sex offenders and attempted to argue how wrong they were.

There's no intention here to play down the need of a convicted/released child molester for a strong spiritual grounding, but the church does not guarantee that. Ross would do well to deal with his client in Christian ministry one-on-one, just as Jesus did.

Expecting his church, which he did not name, to see things his way is from a practical standpoint a reach too far. The parents in that church have a common-sense approach and understand the law even mandates where a registered offender may or may not live or travel.

The initial problem leading to incarceration is bad enough, but the rate of recidivism is worse. A 2008 Wall Street Journal article quoted a recidivism rate of 52 percent, suggested in a widely published report by Dr. Dennis Doren, evaluation director at Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston, Wis.

In a Canadian study in the 1990s, the rate was set at 42 percent for offenders released 1958 to 1974, with 10 percent of the repeat crimes occurring 10 to 31 years after release. This long-term study in a relatively homogeneous population shows that child molestation capability may be a latent threat for decades.

Ross wrote that he had never heard of a child being abused in a church by a registered offender. Of course not. How many registered offenders go to church in the first place? Ross said the church's decision was based on either ignorance, irrational fear or both.

This is the kind of arrogance expected in the warm-fuzzy politically correct craze of today, in which nothing is either right or wrong, with the hoi polloi too dumb to understand their betters.

Ross made it clear that an offender attending church would be accompanied by "another responsible adult." That just about says it all. That's like saying that a released shoplifter or murderer couldn't attend church unless chaperoned by a policeman. Such is not the case, of course, and points up the need to take extensive measures to protect the most vulnerable — the children — in church and everywhere else.

Finally, Ross brings out the big gun, to wit, "What would Jesus do?" After all, sinners are to be welcomed in church, according to Christ.

But as a clinician, Ross deals with sick people. Would someone with smallpox be expected in church? Should children be exposed to someone sick (or evil) enough to violate a child? Most folks probably think not, maybe about 99.99 percent of them. In any case, Jesus was not the wimp the PC crowd prefers. He made a whip and used it on the backs of people violating the temple and drove them out, not in. Later, shortly before he was crucified, he told his disciples to arm themselves.

So, does the whole column boil down to a disgruntled church member not getting his way? Who knows. But plain common sense and decency indicate that Ross' church deserved better than his condemnation of it.


At issue: June 1 commentary by James Roberts Ross, "Sex offenders deserve love, help; Churches shouldn't spurn the sinners"

Jim Clark of Lexington is a retired locomotive engineer.

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