Ethics and Religion Talk: Should congregations welcome sex offenders?

Rabbi David J.B. Krishef asked a mix of faith leaders in Grand Rapids, Michigan their views on whether churches should welcome registered sex offenders.

Read their thoughtful responses to the question here.

Rabbi Krishef’s response:

First of all, my response is based on my own personal understanding of a Jewish attitude towards a communities obligation towards offenders (sexual or otherwise). It does not necessary reflect the policies of my congregation. 

I have written previously in this column that I believe that as it is currently written, the law creating a sex offender registry is unethical. Leviticus 19:16 say, “You are not to traffic in slander among your kinspeople.” Jewish ethics cautions us not to share even verifiably true information which might damage someone’s reputation unless we have a compelling reason to do so.

The Sex Offender Registry might be ethical if it only listed individuals who have been determined by a professional to constitute a high risk to society. Only a small percentage on the list (pedophiles) have a high recidivism rate. The vast majority, however, have a recidivism rate comparable to or less than that or other crimes. 

The Sex Offender Registry, as currently constituted, lumps all sex offenders together as if they all pose the same risk. In this Internet era, the reputation of a person on the registry, even one who has served his time, properly repented, and poses no risk, will be forever smirched. 

A congregation ought to welcome a sexual offender with supervision appropriate to the level of risk he (or she) poses.

Published by nufearless

Nebraskans Unafraid is committed to making our communities safer by ensuring that lawmakers and policymakers do not support laws that cause homelessness, joblessness and damage to families.

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