While openness to a wide variety of individuals is one of the prime values held by our congregation and expressed in our the UUA Statement of Principles and Purposes, we affirm the belief that our congregation must maintain a secure atmosphere where such openness can exist. When any person’s physical and/or emotional well-being or freedom to safely express his or her beliefs or opinions is threatened by the behavior of another individual, the source of this threat must be addressed firmly and promptly, even if this ultimately requires setting limits on individuals, or the expulsion of an offending person or persons. There may be times when the disruptive behavior of an individual in the church building, at church events, or in an electronic communication forum of the church, may cause members or visitors to voice concerns about one or more of the following:
- Perceived threats to the safety of an adult or child,
- The disruption of church activities,
- The diminishment of the appeal of the church to its potential and existing members.
The policy of Unitarian Universalists of Sterling in dealing with these issues shall be:
- If an immediate response is required, this will be undertaken by the Minister and/or leader of the group involved. This may include asking the offending person or persons to leave, or suspending the meeting or activity until such a time as it can safely be resumed. In the case of disruption of electronic media, the offending person may be immediately blocked from access to the media until the issue is resolved. If further assistance is required, the police department may be called. Any time any of these actions are undertaken without the minister being present, the minister should be immediately notified. A follow-up letter detailing what steps must be taken before an offending person can return to church activities will be sent by the minister to the offending person or persons.
- Situations not requiring immediate response will be referred to an ad hoc committee appointed by the Board of Trustees. The committee will respond in terms of their own judgment with the following guidelines:
- The committee will respond to problems as they arise. There will be no attempt to define acceptable behavior in advance.
- Persons identified as disruptive will be dealt with as individuals; stereotypes and generalizations will be avoided.
- The committee will collect all necessary information.
- The committee will consider the following questions: Is the individual a source of threat or perceived threat to persons or property. In other words, is the person dangerous? How much interference with church functions is occurring? In other words, is the person disruptive? How likely is it that prospective or existing members will be driven away by the behavior. In other words, is the person’s behavior offensive?
- To determine the necessary response, the committee will consider the following: Cause — why is this disruption occurring: Is it a conflict between the individual and others in the church, is it due to a professionally diagnosed condition of mental illness? History — what is the frequency and degree of disruption caused in the past by this person? Probability of change — how likely is it that the behavior will diminish or change?
- The committee will decide on the necessary response on a case by case basis. Three levels of response are recommended:
- Level One – the committee shall inform the minister of the problem and either the minister or a member of the committee shall meet with the offending individual to communicate the concern.
- Level Two – The offending individual shall be excluded from the church and/or specific activities for a limited period of time, with reasons and the conditions of return made clear. It will be made clear that if the behavior continues, permanent exclusion from the church is a possibility.These decisions may be appealed to the Executive Committee of the board or to the minister
- Level Three – If no behavioral change occurs, the individual will be permanently excluded from the church premises and all church activities. The Board will vote on the expulsion, and the decision will be sent in writing, explaining the reasons and individual’s rights and possible recourse.
The Unitarian Universalists of Sterling strives to be an inclusive community, affirming our differences in beliefs, opinions and life experiences. However, concern for the safety and well-being of the congregation as a whole must be given priority over the privileges and inclusion of the individual. To the degree the disruptive behavior compromises the health of the congregation, our actions as people of faith must reflect this emphasis on security.