Friday, October 1, 2010

The Day the Bishop Dropped a Bomb

(Originally posted at Mormon Mommy Wars)

Last Sunday was a typical Relief Society meeting – announcements, opening song, opening prayer, 4th Sunday TFOT lesson – until the bishop walked thru the door.

He had an announcement: After being counseled by the legal department in Salt Lake and the local Stake presidency, he was here to inform us that recently baptized members, Bro & Sis. John Doe, were in fact Bro. & Sis. John Smith – and that Bro. Smith was a registered sex offender in the state of X but had failed to register in the state of Y, and that he was baptized using an alias.

Water dripping. Crickets chirping. Dead silence.

Registered sex offender. In the ward. Oh my gosh.

The bishop continued: After much suspicion, they were finally able to determine who Mr. Doe was, and because he had failed to register according to his probation, he had been arrested and was now waiting in jail to be arraigned. Additionally, the bishop said, he wanted the adult congregation to know that both Bro. & Sis. Doe, now Smith, had at various times over the year and a half of their membership been asked to babysit during Stake Family Firesides, meetings formerly known as Enrichment, and in individual homes.

Babysitting? Our children? Fear, panic, squirming, and uneasiness begin.

The bishop wasn’t done: He said, in full disclosure, that he had also learned that Bro. Doe/Smith was also Facebook friends with several youth in the ward and that his original felony occurred with an 11 year old girl. (Which can be found on the X state’s sex offender website).

Is this going to end?

The bishop concluded that, to his knowledge, there had NOT been ANY incidents in the ward involving children/youth and Bro. Doe/Smith, nor did he believe any would be forthcoming. He also counseled that Sis. Doe/Smith, although aware they were using an alias was told by her husband it was for other reasons, and that she needed to be embraced and befriended.

He then asked for questions.

My first reaction was the say, “Whew! I guess my pathetic attendance habits at church functions have paid off big time.” Or, “So glad my husband keeps the kids at home when I come to an activity!” But then I looked around at all the women who have brought their kids to church to be cared for in “nursery” while they attended an activity. Holy Crap.

I also learned on Sunday that you don’t have to prove who you are to be baptized or produce and ID. I suppose even if you did, it wouldn’t warrant a back ground check.

So, what do you ask your bishop once he tells you there is a registered sex offender in your ward? How do you react? Do you start looking at everyone suspiciously? What do you do to safeguard your kids at church? How do you keep from immediately judging?

Glad it is General Conference this Sunday so I don’t have to worry about the bishop interrupting Relief Society.


deb@virginia blue said...

I think it would have taken awhile to pick my jaw up off the floor!
Is it just me, or is the world getting crazier?

Wanted to let you know I finally finished The Lost Summer.., and am passing it along to another blog friend :)
Thanks again for being so thoughtful...I thoroughly enjoyed the book!

MindySue said...

I wish I could say that I was surprised by this, but I'm not. Sex offenders will flock to places where people are easy pickings. Churches are one of the most trusting, welcoming places you can find, where people are not only afraid to judge openly, but disinclined to do so.

Let me be perfectly clear. Churches are NOT safe places. We had, at one point, THREE registered sex offenders in our ward. One who was considered harmless because he was handicapped (and turned out to be a level three high-risk to reoffend sex offender with a proclivity for 6 year old girls). Another, who my husband personally arrested for child rape, and another who moved out of the ward but managed to seduce a young woman and was sent to jail for a period of time. He was Santa Clause at our ward functions for several years. He took my daughter to the park.

What we need to learn as people is to trust the Spirit. If we get a gut feeling about someone, go with it. Do not brush aside the "heebie jeebies" because you don't want to be judgemental. Do not quiet that little voice that tells you something is not right.

In our ward, only the handicapped gentleman is left. He is required to attend all his classes if he is to be in the building. He is required to have preisthood with him at all times and he is not allowed anywhere near the primary or nursery. He is welcome at church in so far as he follows these strict rules.

In this case, our FIRST priority should always be to protect the children. If someone is an RSO it is a matter of public record. It should be talked about. Everyone should know and be vigilant. Do not be silent. It is not gossip. It is the truth and the consequence of their actions. They can be forgiven but still the consequence remains. They have lost the right to be around children - to hold a calling that brings them into contact with children. The nature of sex offenses and the likelihood that someone will reoffend dictates these measures.

RSO's don't just attend Mormon churches. They attend Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, and Islamic services as well.

jayna said...

Wowser. Yikes. Those are the first two words that came to mind.

That said, MindySue has it straight. I no longer worry about "offending" someone when it comes to access to my kids. If I have to be a neurotic and over-protective mom, then so be it!

I hope and pray things will turn out for your exact ward members over this betrayal!

Shelley said...

I feel horrible for the bishop who had to hand out all that news. This makes me feel not so strange now that I won't let me kids go to the bathroom alone during church. Like Mindy Sue said, we can't assume that a church is a safe place. After all, a bishop was recently shot at church. Sad stuff.
By the way, hi! I'm new to your blog and totally rambling on!