The Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville is a welcoming and beloved community, where openness to true diversity is one of the prime values held by our congregation as expressed in our Principles. We affirm the belief that our congregation must maintain a secure atmosphere where such openness can exist. Concern for the congregation as a whole is given priority over the privileges and inclusion of the individual.
There have been times when disruptive behavior of an individual in the church building, the church grounds, or on social media has led members to voice concerns about one or more of the following:
- Perceived threats to the physical safety and wellbeing of any adult or child.
- Personal attacks on members or staff.
- The disruption of church activities.
- Evident violation of our covenant.
- Advancement of divisiveness within the congregation.
- Diminishing appeal of the congregation to its potential and existing membership.
The application of this policy is the remedy of last resort. As members of our beloved community committed to honoring our covenant, we are encouraged to resolve conflicts directly or at the lowest possible level. As adults, we can firmly and compassionately set boundaries for our interactions with each other. At times of disruptive behavior, it is imperative to call each other back to covenant and remind ourselves of our commitments to each other and the mission of our church.
Should it be necessary to go further in returning us to covenant, the following shall guide us in actively and promptly addressing situations in which individuals’ behaviors threaten the physical safety and wellbeing of our members and friends; engage in personal attacks; disrupt church activities; violate our covenant; or initiate divisiveness within the congregation culminating in the diminished appeal of our beloved community to its potential and existing members. This policy does not condone preventing discussion of different, diverse, or controversial subjects.
The privacy/anonymity of the allegedly offensive individual will be maintained at all times, except in cases in which such behaviors pose a threat. The church will follow all applicable state laws and reporting procedures.
It is serious business to file a formal complaint against a fellow member, staff member, or Minister; doing so should never be taken lightly. Every attempt should be made to resolve disruptive situations by addressing them directly, by the Minister, the Board President/designee, or Board member with compassion and concern, before resorting to the use of this policy. However, should a member determine that it is necessary to file a formal complaint related to another member, the complaint is to be first filed with the Minister, or the Board President/VP/Board member in the absence of a Minister, for potential referral to the Right Relations Team. Should the formal complaint be related to the Minister, the complaint is to be filed with the Committee on Ministry (COM). If the complaint is related to a staff member, the complaint is to be filed with the Board of Directors’ Personnel Committee.
- At any time there are perceived threats to the physical safety; the wellbeing of any adult or child; or personal attacks during a church service, church activity, or social media postings, and the disruptive behavior requires an immediate response, it will be undertaken by the Minister, if available, the leader of the group involved, or the Board President/designee in the absence of the Minister. This may include asking the offending person or persons to leave or suspending the meeting or activity until it can safely be resumed. If the disruptive behavior is on campus, and further assistance is required, the Police Department may be called.
- Anytime such actions are required, and the Minister is not present, then the Minister, President of the Board and the Chair of the Right Relations Team must be notified, and the incident documented with date, time and individuals involved as soon as is practicable.
- A follow-up letter or document detailing what steps must be taken by the offending party or parties before he/she/they may return to the activities involved and be considered to be back in covenant will be sent by the Minister, or by the Board President in the absence of a Minister, to the offending party or parties.
- Situations requiring a response will be referred by the Minister, Board President, or Board member, to the Right Relations Team to further investigate the matter. When appropriate and whenever possible, the Right Relations Team will inform the person that a complaint has been filed and is being investigated.
- People and situations will be dealt with individually.
- Stereotypes or stereotyping is unacceptable.
- The Minister, the Board President/designee, or the Right Relations Team will collect any information required to obtain a complete picture of the situation.
- If and when the Right Relations Team considers it appropriate and necessary that specific, and essential information be obtained in order for the Team to perform its task, the Board shall authorize funds to pay costs for a professional background check, to provide such facts as the correct identity of the person in question and records of past criminal activity involving threats, harassment, or actual harm to other persons or property.
- To aid in evaluating the problem, these points will be considered:
- Dangerous: Is the individual the source of an actual or perceived physical threat, to persons or property, including himself or herself, or engaging in personal attacks, and/or the source of disruption of the well being of the congregation?
- Disruptive: How much interference with church functions and/or congregational health and unity is occurring?
- Offensive: How likely is it that prospective or existing members will be driven to leave the campus, resign membership, or not join without intervention?
- To determine the necessary response, these points, among others, will be considered:
- Why is this disruption occurring? Is it a conflict between and among individual(s) and others in the congregation? Are there mitigating circumstances?
- What is the frequency and degree of disruption taking place, or caused in the past?
- How likely is it that the problem behavior will diminish in the future without intervention?
- The Minister, or the Board in the absence of a Minister, will respond on a case-by-case basis. The Right Relations Team may also respond if the case has been officially referred to it, as stipulated in its charter. The following levels of response are options the Minister, or the Board, or the Right Relations Team, may implement:
- LEVEL 1/No Action: It may be determined that the complaint is not warranted, and the Minister, or the Board President/designee in the absence of a Minister, will explain and discuss this with the person who filed the complaint. The Congregation will not be informed of the complaint or resolution.
- LEVEL 2/Warning: The Minister, or a member of the Right Relations Team shall meet with the offending individual to communicate the concern and expectations for future behavior. In the absence of a Minister or a Right Relations Team, the Board President/designee shall meet with the offending individual. The congregation will not be informed of the complaint or resolution.
- LEVEL 3/Suspension: The offending individual is excluded from the fellowship and/or specific activities for a limited period of time, with the reasons and the conditions of return made clear in writing. The Minister, or the Board in the absence of a Minister or a Right Relations Team will decide how to communicate the complaint and resolution to the Congregation.
- LEVEL 4/Expulsion: The Right Relations Team recommends that the offending individual should be either temporarily excluded or permanently expelled from membership in UUCJ. The minister, or the Board President in the absence of a Minister, will write a letter to the individual explaining such action as per UUCJ Bylaws ARTICLE IV – MEMBERSHIP, Section 3 – Continuation of Membership, A. 3. The Minister, or the Board in the absence of a Minister, will decide how to communicate the complaint and resolution to the Congregation.
Adopted by UUCJ Board July 11, 2016
Revised and Adopted June 1, 2021