“Go and Sin No More… Or, if you’re a Registrant, Just Go!”

We talk a lot about the impact of laws on registered persons and their loved ones, but sometimes the negative impact of the public registry reaches us in places we least expect to find. Not even churches are immune to Predator Panic. I found this out the hard way.

In the mid-1990s I became a member of a church in California, where I had been living for several years. I attended this church regularly and helped out with their Sunday school crafts for the children. I became close friends and associated with these people quite often, many of them were also neighbors of mine and my parents who also attended the church. We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries together, had backyard BBQs, shared recipes and books, many of us also met for coffee or lunch and often went shopping together. These people would also ask me to watch their children when they wanted a few hours away.

Around 2011 I befriended a registered person living in the same small town and began to become more active as an advocate for registered persons; soon I was dating this man. He did not attend any services at this church at all, even after we started dating.

Over the months leading into the summer of 2012, many of the church members began to avoid me and “forgot” to invite me to things or “confused the days” when I invited them for something. They told me they no longer needed anyone to watch their children and the church suddenly did not need any more help with the youth crafts, not even relating to new project ideas and suggestions. In the beginning I was not concerned with this behavior; I simply contributed it to the fact that many people had their minds on the holidays, spending time with their families, and travel. By mid-summer almost all of the church members were avoiding me and had stopped talking to me, many were also starting to shun my parents. When they did speak to me it was only after I started a conversation, responding bluntly with what seemed forced courtesy saying things such as, “Good morning to you too, I hope you have been doing well”, or the old lame excuse of, “I would really love to talk but I don’t have time, you see I’m in a bit of a rush I have to go…”

This all came to a sudden and unexpected end one hot summer morning. Pastor “Frank” had given a very nice sermon on forgiveness reminding us how Jesus Christ forgives everyone and every sin. He told us the story of the woman at the well in the 4th chapter of John and how Christ had told her “Go and sin no more.” He emphasized that no matter who we are, rich or poor, no matter what our social standing God was there for us and had let his only son willingly give his life for all sins and indiscretions.

Immediately after this service Pastor Frank, “Brian” (the Head Elder), and his wife “Tammy” (the youth director), called me aside and asked to speak with me. The three of them ushered me into the office of the pastor, a small cramped room with three chairs, a large desk, and two floor-to-ceiling book cases. There was no air-conditioning in the room, so the air was stifling. Frank sat behind his desk with his back to the small window, Brian took the chair directly across from him, and Tammy sat next to Brian in the last chair. I was left standing backed into the corner by the bookshelves with Brian and Tammy between the doorway and me.

Brian began the conversation telling me I would need to leave the church if I were to continue to befriend, date, and advocate for registered persons and the abolishment of the registry. He said the church could not allow me to stay because as everyone knows, “Birds of a feather flock together so I must be a pedophile also, as it was obvious I condoned such behavior.” He informed me that my association with criminals such as this would only draw more to our community and church putting many innocent women and children in danger. During this entire depressing and uncomfortable lecture both Frank and Tammy sat looking on with unsmiling serious scowls on their faces that seemed almost to border on a smirk. They did not speak but only nodded in agreement with Brian from time to time. I told them I would go by their wishes and no longer attend this church. He closed the conversation by making a statement I felt was threatening in tone; he stated, “Remember, be careful who you associate with. People may think poorly of you and many bad things will happen to you, especially when you associate with known criminals.”

After I stopped attending there were many unexplained vandalism attempts on my parents property. My parents were living in a nice neighborhood across town from me on a quiet street with some of the people from the same congregation as neighbors. My parents’ front porch was egged a couple of times; one time the garage door had been vandalized with spray paint; several times they found nails, screws and such in their tires and scattered across the driveway; my father’s gas tank was emptied one night; and twice the tires on my mother’s van were slashed, with all four tires slashed on one occasion. It seemed strange that none of the neighbors heard or seen anything happening even though the street was well lit and the vandalism was only to my parents’ property. There is no proof of who may have done these things but I for one still have my suspicions.

Of course this nasty demeaning situation left me feeling quite insulted and depressed. I felt that the religious community I had so faithfully befriended and supported for all these years had suddenly turned on me and let me down. I understand that not all people and churches act this way; in fact, only 2% of respondents from a 2010 Christianity Today Poll stated their churches exclude Registrants from services, while 3% have a registered person in a leadership role within their congregation. However, I still get a little wary and nervous whenever I visit a church today. There seems to be a little voice nagging at me and questioning if these people would truly accept me if they were to know what I advocate for and who my friends are. I also can’t help but wonder if they would look down on my boyfriend, the man I love, because he made a mistake many years ago, paid his debt to society but now bears a label as a registered person and assumed to be dangerous.

14 comments for ““Go and Sin No More… Or, if you’re a Registrant, Just Go!”

  1. Agroterra
    October 2, 2019 at 4:54 am

    Gini,

    When I was a teenager, I learned the hard lesson of how hypocritical some people in the Church can be. I started going to church with a neighbor girl. A Baptist church across town that had a lively teen group! I enjoyed my time with them and going to sing at competitions etc. One of the other teenage girls in our group came from a loving home. Yet they were always financially challenged at the time. Which could have been any one of my family given the financial climate. Her mother was a loving, caring lady! And did her best to give her daughter what she needed and wanted.

    I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it’s been decades ago. Her mother came to a church service one morning when we were all to sing before the congregation. She wore her best pant suit and dress shirt. Not like many of the other congregants, but for her it was her best! As a 14 YO girl I was astonished at the terrible things some of the “adults” were saying about this woman! Commenting on her clothing etc! And in my mind all I could think was, “I don’t think God cares what your wearing, where you live etc as long as your in church and worshiping the Lord!” It was the final straw, I decided to leave that church because if that’s how they were going to act toward someone who made EVERY effort to be there and dress the best that she was able to dress and be demeaned in that manner. Then they had nothing for me! There were other things that happened that “turned my stomach” as well.

    So as your story goes. There are good and bad all around us! And some are the ones “professing” they love God and his teachings while being the biggest hypocrites that walk the earth!

    I hope that you are able to find a church that you enjoy! But if not, who says you can’t worship God in your own way in your own house? I know part of it is community, but why would anyone with a brain want to subject themselves to such nonsense!

    Love to you all!

    D

  2. Thomas Darby
    October 2, 2019 at 5:20 am

    Great story! This is how it happens with a lot of us, and we forget how badly the registry affects family, friends, and others who suffer from the “guilt by association” problem. For some reason, humans are part of a mass-think, “hive-mind” complex in spite of our claims to individualism. Just watch a peaceful assembly of protesters, when a few get loud, then nasty, and others join in, then it gets louder and nastier and may become violent. Cameras were watching a riot scene in a big city once, and you could see the crowd moving like a giant wave, not being pushed by police or other actions but seeming to move randomly like a flock of starlings. The crowd moved Towards the violence and shouting, until teargas was fired. We want to see ourselves as free-thinkers, but in a crowd, or “crowd-think,” like the negative pronouncements surrounding sex offender laws, we join in what the “mass” of people think, say, or do… as if it is correct and right, even though we have no specific proof of the truth. We just go along with the wave.

    So I see it in churches today. In 1997, awaiting trial in California, a few elders of a church I had not attended in years came by the jail and “excommunicated” me. After prison, I tried to get re-fellowshipped, but was shunned, denied assistance I needed, denied the brotherhood of the church. Just as well, actually, I came to see that church as a cult in Christian clothing. But even churches that claim to believe in the whole Bible, and in the words and works of Jesus, are affected by this madness and persecute their own. When Jesus asked, rhetorically, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone at her,” these holier-than-thou fake believers would be throwing stones so fast that Jesus would have to duck. These hypocritical beliefs are why I no longer attend any church. I still remain a strong believer in God, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I have had too many experiences in my life to deny Him. But as for all those holy sinless people who show up on Sunday (or Saturday) and Praise the Lord and pray, pray, pray then go home and beat their wives and children and drink and pop pills, and dare call ME a hopeless sinner, I wish them a fast and smooth trip to the hottest spot in hell.

    • WC_TN
      October 12, 2019 at 7:53 pm

      I am one of the lucky ones. I am a supervised registrant in the state of TN because my offense involved a young child. I was welcomed back to the little congregation where I grew up. I had to prove myself for a while, but once I established myself there and that I was dedicated to keeping my every action above board, I was allowed to once again lead singing, lead public prayers, preside over and assist with the Lord’s Supper, and have even been a regular teacher of the Wednesday night adult Bible Class. I have many allies there and one man in particular is of the opinion that if anyone has a problem with me, it’s their problem; not mine and they’ll just have to deal with it. I am a member of the Church of Christ. This congregation practices what Jesus preached.

  3. Alan Davis
    October 2, 2019 at 7:49 am

    As a believing Christian, one who fortunately is a part of a church that has welcomed me into their community and in fact allows me to participate in leading elements of worship, I can tell you that there are churches that are attempting to live a life of faith by following the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    However, there are two major criticisms that non-believers and sometimes even believers, have about Christians that often seam to be true. First is the statement that “Christians are judgmental.” The second is that “Christians are non-forgiving”. Neither of these should be true of Christians, but far too often, rather than being the exceptions, they seem to be the general rule. When one finds a church that treats others this way, “shake the dust from your sandles. And move on.”

    Now, I must also add that many people seam to believe that being judgemental and using discernment is the same thing, but they are not. Being judgemental is making decisions based on human experiences and with human bias through our inherent sin nature. This is wrong and in fact is sinful itself, for we are all sinners. Using discernment however, is to attempt to see things the way God sees them. If He were to want a person to give up drinking because that person is being controled by alcohol, He is doing so for the good of that person. Drinking alchoel in itself is not a sin, after all, Jesus’s first miracle was turning water into wine, and that was not because there was no wine for the wedding, but that the guests had drunk up all the wine that had been brought. By using discernment, one would see that God doesn’t say that drinking in itself is a sin, but only that drinking, if being used as an escape or is being abused, it is that the motivation behind the action that can be sinful.

    And last of all, God wants the best for all, and that all includes registrants. He has love for all that He created.

  4. Tim
    October 2, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    God rendered no human subservient to machine, that was and always has been
    the doing of men

  5. Scott
    October 3, 2019 at 2:43 am

    Gina, I have been there many times before. I have attended many different churches and denominations. I came to a conclusion, People are People and “You or I” can’t change them, only God can. I figure it this way, church attendance for many denominations are dwindling and every day church’s are closing much to do with financial woes and differences among members that cause members to leave and some never return. Right now i am going through a period in my life that if these so called “Christians” represent God in the way they do, I don’t know if i truthfully want to reckon with any of it. BUT…… I know their is a God because he helped in so many ways and kept me from serving “Hard Time”. I did join a prison ministry and was hoping to be able to go further but due to my trauma of getting trouble i had a hard time to “Let Go” of my sin, especially when society including churches seem to rub it in your face once someone gets the dirt on you. I was asked to visit prisons but i couldn’t get visiting clearance due to my background to meet with other men who were in.

    Communities need more support groups who reach out to those who are coming out of prisons and be able to give them resources they need. depending on the crime, housing is a big need and then a job.

    Last but not least, If the people build the church, then you should know what the church’s stand for. If they don’t allow it in the community, they wouldn’t allow in the church either. We really do live in a Judgemental society. Just because someone says they are Christian doesn’t always mean they are. I believe actions speak louder than words. God is no respecter of persons. I hope they one day realize that.

  6. J
    October 3, 2019 at 6:16 am

    Briefly, when I lived in CA I was told by several churches that could not attend their servces because of the s.o. statis, also at the time the p.o. told me I was not allowed to go church & furthermore if he caught me in church he violate me. Thing is, there is nothing even remotely resembling the church & the alleged crime!

  7. Raye
    October 3, 2019 at 7:28 am

    I didn’t know my husband when he committed his offense, but he told me about the reaction of the church he and his parents had attended for years. The church is quite large and the founding pastor had a bit on the radio (similar to a promo) that gave a little lesson/scripture every morning. This was on mainstream radio. So, this was a very well known church. The founding pastor had moved on before my husband’s offense. After he was charged, he turned to his church for support and guidance. The pastors wouldn’t even talk to him. They literally and figuratively turned their backs on him.

    I am not a fan of organized religion. I don’t feel that you need to make a show of being a good Christian by going to church, especially if you don’t live it every other day. If you don’t live like a Christian and treat others as Jesus would, you are not a Christian….you are a placeholder in a pew in a building.

  8. Kayt
    October 3, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    I’ve tried to respond in better terms, but all I can come up with is: Why would it be important to seek acceptance from people? Why not simply worship God as we know him and offer assistance to others if we have the ability to help them? Why not believe that God as we know him has planted us exactly where he wants us? It’s hard to do, isn’t it?

  9. Kayt
    October 3, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    PS: We know our true friends and family by their love.

  10. Sharon
    October 3, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    Easily found in the scriptures, easily ignored by the church:

    Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    I’m not so sure I could do all that on a good day, but I would not tell anyone they couldn’t go into a church, I don’t think I could have ever turned anyone away, I hope not.

  11. October 5, 2019 at 9:43 am

    http://www.oncefallen.com/churchandsexoffenders.html

    I added Gini’s story on my revamped article on addressing registered citizen needs in the church.

    I’ve been to Roman Catholic, Maronite Catholic, non-denominational and Baptist Churches since my release, and none of them gave me any issues. I have not experienced discrimination, but some people have. This isn’t a knock on the christian faith, but on individuals who ignore the teachings of their faith. But these stories must be told because people NEED to hear the many ways we suffer because of the registry.

  12. Jon
    October 7, 2019 at 3:58 am

    When my indictment hit the paper, it did so in such a way as to sensationalize the story. The indictment itself was passed in such a way as to sensationalize the whole thing, as the entire indictment was dropped and the only evidence in the discovery had nothing to do with the charges I was indicted on.

    All that backstory to paint the picture of a life lived under extreme scrutiny. I left the church I was attending at the time. I have been invited to come back and maybe one day I will. At the time, I was attending an Apostolic Pentecostal church. A close family friend made contact with me and invited me to her church. She is a United Methodist pastor with a very small church. At the time I started attending, I was the youngest member and the older folks treated me like a cherished son! As I went through the confusing legal system and eventually to jail, they wrote and sent cards and Pastor Susan came in to see me every week in jail. As soon as I came home, I returned to church and was warmly welcomed and accepted.

    This was not long lived, however. My P.O. began receiving phone calls from a lady in the church who had “concerns.” It was finally time to decide if it was staying in this congregation or going around the world looking for a church home and running every time my dirty secrets were exposed. Armed with the love of 22 out of 23 congregants, I took the pulpit and very frankly discussed my story to the congregation. Prepared to leave and start looking elsewhere for a church, I stepped down to the door to do the handshake thing and fell into the embrace of the entire congregation! 2 different men there told me about their stories as well. I learned that in a church that rarely sees 24, I am one of 3 who has had to deal with the legal system for the same kind of reasons as I.

    There have been other churches who have made me welcome and I love visiting them. I lay low but one at least has become very welcoming. Last night, we kicked off a group called CELEBRATE RECOVERY. It is a Christian program based on the 12-step model. Everyone is in recovery, whether it be from addiction, incarceration, emotion…and our group is a safe place to gather. I connected immediately with a friend there and for a moment, I was actually able to feel like myself again!

    This is what I have to say on this topic. Christianity is based on the principle that EVERYONE has transgressed and is headed straight down the roadway to Hell. Only faith and trust in Jesus can save us. Repentence-confessing our sin to God and leaving our sin behind us, being born again into a new person free of that sin. It’s a simple formula, actually.

    The more “righteous” among us tend to see themselves as infallable. There’s nothing we can do about them, but according to the Bible they push at us, they are no less guilty than we are! Listen, friends. We can’t be responsible for the venom of others. If we are not wanted at the Triple Rock Church (name made up,) there’s the “God’s Country Tabernacle” next door. There’s a church next to that, 2 towns over, you might find a place that doesn’t know you, you might find a REAL church of broken, hurting sinners, just like ourselves, who open their arms to us.

    In closing, Apostolic Pentecostal and United Methodist churches are POLAR opposite!! I went from one very upbeat and exciting church to a very quiet liturgical church. As the pastor said, “We are not Pentecostal but maybe that’s only because we need someone to bring Pentecostal gifts into our church!”

    There is a place for me, and friends, God has a place for you, too.

  13. October 12, 2019 at 8:56 am

    I’m so sorry for your experience. I experienced something similar at a church I belonged to in CA, over a different matter, it was very hurtful. I pray God leads you to those who will walk the talk! I’m blessed to belong to a congregation who supports my work in prison ministry, in fact my pastor is actively involved in Bill Glasses Prison Ministry. Not everyone knows my husband is a registrant & we’ll have to face that someday with other congregants I’m sure, but my closest friends do. I’m not saying they aren’t wary, they are to a certain extent, but not enough to not be supportive & encouraging, & talk of excitement about my husband hopefully making parole. Also, some have come to me & told me how I’ve educated them about the issue & opened up their eyes. In fact not too long ago I posted a story of how a friend of mine befriended one of my mentees who is a registrant & how much it impacted her & changed her to hear his story & become his friend. Of course this is an ongoing walk & some will be on board, some won’t & some will stand back & take the middle road not sure of how to act. But I made my choice 25 years ago when I started mentoring & standing by a registrant, my first penpal Kenneth! Then really walked the walk when I married a soon to be registrant. I pray for the church that they can walk the talk! Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.