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SAFE CONGREGATION POLICY AND PROCEDURES

The Safe Congregation Policy covers serious inappropriate behavior such as violence, harassment, sexual and physical abuse and applies to the Minister, paid staff, members, friends and visitors.  Although the scope of this policy overlaps to some degree with a separate Disruptive Behavior Policy, the acts covered herein are more egregious in nature and require immediate action.

Safe Congregation Policy Statement

Thomas Paine Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is committed to promoting a safe and welcoming environment supportive of personal and spiritual growth. This Fellowship recognizes the right of its ministers, employees/contractors, members, and visitors to have an environment free of interpersonal violence such as harassment and abuse. Violations would include abuse or harassment of a physical, psychological, or sexual nature.

We believe that harassment and abuse are not the fault of the victim. A person who has been harassed or abused needs support, empowerment, and a structure which provides an effective, safe, and prompt response to his or her complaint.

We believe in a safe environment for our congregation and for our children that is free of any type of weapon, including concealed firearms.

This Fellowship also supports the Policies of the Unitarian Universalist Association and its Ministerial Fellowship Committee regarding professional behavior. Criminal behaviors that threaten the safety and welfare of our congregation are not tolerated and will be referred to the proper outside authorities.

TPUUF Safe Congregation Policies and Procedures

  1. Definitions of Harassment and Abuse
  2. Policy Regarding Behavior of Minister
  3. Policy Regarding Behavior of Staff
  4. Policy Regarding Sexual Harassment of Employees (as regulated by Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1991)
  5. Policy Regarding Behavior of Member or Guest
  6. Policy Regarding the Carrying of Weapons on Fellowship property.
  7. Procedure for Complaints regarding the perceived violation of the Safe Congregations Policies.
Definitions Of Harassment and Abuse
Introduction

Two principal forms of interpersonal violence are harassment and abuse, which are defined below. If an individual feels his/her personal safety has been violated in this congregation by a behavior or form of misconduct that is not specified here, s/he may still file a complaint with the Committee on Congregational Ministry (COCM).

Harassment

Harassment includes unsolicited and unwelcome conduct that in the case of sexual harassment has sexual overtones. All forms of harassment can feel intrusive, intimidating, hostile, offensive and/or humiliating to the victim. This includes physical, psychological, and sexual harassment. Stalking is also a type of harassment. We consider these three areas to overlap, but are focusing on where the primary complaint is. Unwelcome physical touch with sexual overtones would be considered sexual harassment.

  1. Physical pertaining to unwanted touch, contact, or other physical intrusions on another’s space
  2. Psychological pertaining to emotional and mental levels of pestering, intruding, stalking, etc.
  3. Sexual pertaining to unwanted sexualized behaviors, which may be in the form of:
    1. physical sexual conduct- touching, pinching, brushing against, impeding or blocking movement, assault, coercing sexual contact, etc
    2. Verbal sexual conduct- sexually suggestive or obscene comments, sexual propositions, threats (including threat of job loss or other punishment unless victim engages in sexual relations), jokes about sexual orientation, etc.
    3. written sexual conduct- sexually suggestive or obscene written material
Abuse

Abuse is a pattern of behavior that is used to control and/or dominate another person. Abuse can be physical, psychological, and/or sexual.

  1. Physical Includes actual or threatened harm, such as hitting, shoving, kicking, or throwing things.
  2. Psychological  Includes being mistreated mentally and emotionally, such as being insulted, ridiculed, or threatened verbally.
  3. Sexual Includes any of the behaviors above. Three major areas of concern are:
    1. Sexual relating or contact between an adult and a minor;
    2. Sexual relating or contact between minors that violates one of them because of the other’s role or position of power;
    3. Sexual relating or contact between adults that violates one of them because of the other’s role or position of power.
Policy Regarding Behavior of The Minister

The minister will adhere to the “UUMA Guidelines for the Conduct of Ministry” which includes the “Code of Professional Practice”.

Policy Regarding Behavior of Staff

The staff shall be held to similar standards as the minister. Staff members, if single, shall not be prohibited from a dating relationship with another staff member or a person in the congregation.

Policy Regarding Sexual Harassment of Employees

(Under Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1991)

All employees and persons who have been contracted with for their labor have the right to an environment free from sexual harassment. Sexual Harassment is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. When a person is sexually harassed, s/he is afforded the same protection and redress as a victim of any other form of discrimination.  Sexual harassment is defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as the use of one’s authority or power, either explicitly or implicitly, to coerce another into unwanted sexual relations or to punish another for his/her refusal of same; or the creation of an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment through verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

It prohibits unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conducts of a sexual nature when:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment; and/or
  2. Submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as the basis for a decision or decisions affecting such individual; and/or
  3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance; and/or
  4. Such conduct has the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment, and the supervisor knows or should know of the existence of the harassment and fails to take timely and appropriate action.

All individuals in positions of supervision are responsible for their own conduct and for the conduct of individuals they supervise, and will take affirmative steps to stop sexual harassment by subordinates when it is brought to their attention, including warning or disciplining the offending individual. Such disciplining may include any legally acceptable means, to be decided with the assistance of the Committee on Congregational Ministry, and if deemed advisable, the Board of Trustees.

Policy Regarding Behavior of Member, friend, or Visitor

We believe our Fellowship needs to have clearly communicated standards. Misconduct on the part of a member or visitor can have harmful effects on any individual as well as on the rest of the congregation. This is intended to protect the welfare of all individuals, including the Fellowship staff and minister.

Misconduct can fall under many categories, including but not limited to sexual misconduct, harassment, disruptive behavior (see separate policy), criminal behavior, malicious slander against another member, friend and staff including the minister.

Gradations of seriousness can apply to all forms of harassment and abuse. For example, the following list applies to sexual misconduct, where (1) is least serious and (5) is most serious:

  1. Unwelcome sexual innuendoes
  2. Inappropriate touching
  3. Unwelcome advances or requests for sexual favors
  4. Sexual relations with an adult under inappropriate circumstances
  5. Sexual relations with a minor under any circumstances.

If after careful investigation by the COCM, it is found that misconduct has occurred, the actions that can be taken will depend on the gravity of the offense and can include a meeting with the Minister and President of the congregation and possible termination of membership to a notification to the proper outside civil authorities for possible criminal charges.

Policy Regarding Carrying Weapons on Fellowship Property

To protect the safety of our members, friends, children and visitors, we request that no weapons, including concealed firearms, be brought into the building or carried on the premises.  We acknowledge the right of a licensed individual to carry a concealed weapon, but feel that the potential risk to our congregants and children takes precedence and therefore will respectfully request that any individual not carry a weapon while on the premises.

Requests for an exemption from this policy may be made to the minister, who will make the decision in cooperation with the board of trustees.  Examples include members of the Armed Forces, active duty police officers, weapons that are part of religious ceremonies and as part of a controlled demonstration.

Procedure to Handle Complaints

The complainant shall make a confidential statement, verbally or in writing, to a member of the COCM. The committee will meet within ten days after the complaint was made and follow the guidelines set forth below.

The COCM shall issue a decision within ten days after the first meeting. The process of reaching a decision may include a meeting with the COCM, the complainant, the minister and/or President of the congregation, if such a meeting will not put the complainant at risk.

 

Conduct of the Committee on Congregational Ministry
  1. All complaints shall be given prompt and fair consideration.
  2. Persons presenting complaints shall be free of coercion, restraints, interference, discrimination, or reprisal.
  3. The COCM shall act with sensitivity, objectivity, and fairness in handling these complaints.
  4. Decisions of the committee must reflect a consensus and if appropriate must involve the minister and/or the Congregational President.
  5. If the committees’ decision involves any disciplinary action against the offender, the panel shall make that recommendation to the Board of Trustees. If no disciplinary action is involved, the decision can close the complaint process.
  6. A complaint against the minister will include the Congregational President and if warranted outside parties such as UUA personnel.
  7. A written record shall be kept. Unless otherwise required, this confidential record shall only be accessible to the COCM, the Board of Trustees and the minister. Access shall be further limited if the complaint involves any of these parties.
  8. In handling any given complaint, the committee shall not be required to keep a written record if the complaint is resolved informally or dropped at the request of the complainant. Under such circumstances, neither shall the COCM be required to contact the individual the complaint was against.