I have found out lately that many supposedly Christian ministries have opted to exclude from those they minister to those who are listed on the sex offender registry, no matter how minor their crimes.
This means that, for instance, housing may be unavailable in the most inhospitable of climates. I live in Maine. In this state, no homeless shelter, no Christian men’s shelter, no addiction ministry will accept persons who are homeless and on the sex offender registry. We have recently gone through nearly a month where the weather has been brutally cold. I have no idea how many men who have been listed on the sex offender registry in this state will have frozen to death because they could not find a place to shelter away from the cold. Last year in California, a dozen homeless persons froze to death. I have no idea how many of them were on the California sex offender registry, though it would not surprise me to find out that at least some of them were.
In some cases, these are people who have done nothing more than urinate in public, have consensual relationships with people who were their contemporaries or play doctor when they were as young as eight years old.
Other crimes include locking a teenager in their own bedroom for as little as 10 minutes; having accidentally downloaded some images of 17 year old teens with some images of legal pornography; having swatted a child who was misbehaving on the buttocks once through the clothes. All these can get a person the obligation to be listed for life as someone who has “abused a child”, even though most reasonable people would agree that these things should never have been prosecuted, let alone listed on a sex offender registry.
So, what is my responsibility as a Christian in regard to other people?
Should I judge them? No. The Bible clearly states “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
Should I protect myself from them? Possibly. I don’t think I need to put myself alone with a violent person, nor should I allow someone to be alone with a child unless I am reasonably certain that they will not harm them.
But should I refuse to allow them food, shelter, employment? No. These are the very things which will keep those who have offended once from offending again. Studies in recent years have proven what Christians SHOULD have known for years:
When you welcome someone back into the community, when you feed, house and offer a job to them, you have greatly lessened the likelihood that they will offend again. After all, didn’t Jesus say “Neither then do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”