Duke Chupa’s Story – The Prologue

The courtroom sat in an eerie silence as Duke stood up from the hard wooden bench he had just spent the past half hour on. His stomach was churning, and he took a side glance at his attorney, who nodded, giving him a tight smile.
The jury looked half asleep, but Duke paid them no attention. So far they had been no help to him. Duke turned to the judge, who was tapping his thumb on the dense, elaborately carved mahogany desk. The court’s slogan was fixed into the wood, inlaid with gold. Duke frowned. ‘A flat earth yields justice.’
That didn’t make any sense. On second thought, nothing in this court made much sense.

“Mr. Chupa!” The judge’s voice rang sharply in the large room. Duke snapped to a half-hearted stance that resembled attention.
“Yeah, uh, could you repeat the question?”

The judge sighed and shook his head, gazing quizzically at the young man before him. The wide stance, loose dirty jeans. It appeared to be that he had attempted to dress up the outfit, but the rumpled dress shirt that was missing the top two buttons did the effort no justice. His dark, disheveled hair matched the eyes that were giving the judge a dark, steely brown glare.
The man’s hiking boots needed to be cleaned, better yet; replaced. The judged noted the various fresh cuts on the visible areas of the man; hands, neck and face. His eyes hinted mischief, but the tired expression he wore told that he had been through a man made inferno this past week. The judge almost smiled. If only this Duke knew what was to come-if he pled innocent, that is.

“Hey!” the court jumped at Duke’s sudden outburst. The judge glared down at the accused, and Duke rolled his eyes. “Sorry, Your Venerate. I asked you to repeat the question. Or are you ignoring my rights-again?”
The judge took a slow sip of coffee, and then smiled pleasantly. “Rights…okay, then-here is the question. But I’m disappointed. I thought you would be unlike-”
“Then you thought wrong!” Duke interrupted. “That’s the problem with you guys…all of you-you just assume, without evaluating your options!”

Sighing, the judge complied. “Very well. We’ll do this your way. I’ll repeat the question, but only if you answer it. I will do my part, if you will do yours. Agreed?”
Duke’s attorney set her file down on the desk and stood. “Yes, Your Venerate, my client will cooperate.” She looked at Duke, who gave her a curt nod. But his eyes didn’t approve. Every inch of his body was questioning the legitimacy of the trial, but he had no choice. He looked to the judge, who took another swallow of his coffee.
“Mr. Chupa, do you understand that his court procedure is nothing like that which is of your world?”
Duke scoffed. “If I didn’t, I’d be a genius, wouldn’t I?”
“A ‘yes’ would’ve have served quite well.” The judge looked hard at Duke’s attorney, a thin, pretty Mexican woman who looked like she wouldn’t feel at home at all in a court room. With his mind, he willed the woman to control her client; he was tired of dealing with all of this monkey business. It didn’t work. The judge continued anyway.
“Good. Then we will proceed. The case has been passed to the jury, as tradition, but fortunately for you, a finicky jurist insisted he either hear your side of the story, or acquit you, which…we cannot do. So please…”

Duke burst out in horror. “Story? What story?” he tried to throw up his hands, but the handcuffs dug into his wrists, bringing the gesture to an abrupt and painful halt. He winced and continued. “How can I give you a story when I don’t have any clue as to what it’s about? Since the minute this chaos butted into my life, I haven’t had half a clue about anything that’s happened to me! You guys are insane! You think you’re from another planet, you stalk me, you wrench my mind around-and you, of all people-want a story from me? You should offer the explanation.”
The attorney put her hand on Duke’s arm. “Mr. Chupa, please…”
He shook her off angrily. “No! Don’t I at least have the right to know what crime I’m being charged with?”
The judge looked nervously around the room, glancing at a group of four people, two men and two women, Duke’s prosecutors. The leader of the team, a man with premature salt and pepper hair and dark, handsome features shrugged his shoulders at the judge, and then eyed the woman sitting next to him. The woman, his sister, stared straight ahead.
The leader looked to his left at a young Brazilian woman who had the face and figure of a model. She gave him no expression, but slipped him a piece of paper. On the other side of her, a British man glanced around, and then nodded at the leader-who wasn’t too happy with what he had read.
He stood and put the paper in his pocket. “Your Venerate-we have decided to allow the accused to have the privilege of knowing only this. Mr. Chupa…” he turned his attention to the other side of the courtroom, meeting the glare of the younger man. “We, the Company of Flat Earth, charge you with the most inexcusable crime .”
Duke swayed slightly, his world swimming. Inexcusable? Typically that meant murder! Sure, records of his reckless teenage years still haunted him, but would he commit murder? If that was even the crime? What if they were charging him as something worse…like a serial killer? He sat down hard, sandwiching his hands between his lower back and the wooden bench. He was so lost in thought he didn’t hear his attorney fighting for him.
“I highly object, Your Venerate. What is my client supposed to plead if he has no idea what he did?”
“Ms. Lopa, I ask you to control your temper in my court!”

Cai Lopa took a deep, controlled breath. “You don’t want to see my temper, Your Venerate. But like my client, I demand answers.”
“Fine!” the judge broke his poise and stood up. “If your client, Mr. Chupa, pleads guilty, the young man can save himself a lot of trouble.”
“As opposed to innocent? What, might I ask, would compel Mr. Chupa to plead guilty?”
Hearing his name, Duke looked up. “Plead guilty? To what, all of this…this hogwash you’re giving me? If you want to charge me with boosting cars, holding up the local Chop Shop, all those things I did when I was teen, fine, you know? I’m okay with that! But I’m not goin’ to death row to save your sorry hind!”

The judge look perturbed. “Save us?”
“Yeah! How else do you explain this conjured trial?”
“How would you explain it?”
Duke dropped his head, and then looked up again. “Easy.” He nodded towards the uneasy group. “One of those guys hired somebody to commit the crime, or did it themselves, then found some…some kid that already had a record, and blamed it on him!”
The Brazilian woman stood up, now with all eyes of the court on her when before she had gone unnoticed. “Your Venerate, we’re not getting anywhere with this. Could we please just have the defendant tell his story so we can get on with the trial? Some of us don’t have as much time on our hands as you do, Your Venerate.”
The judge nodded his head. “Indeed. The young lady has a very good point. Mr. Chupa, the only way you can have a ‘fair trial’ as you put it, would be for you to give us your side of the story. We need all the details, from the first time you laid eyes on any Flat Earth member, right up until now.” The judge turned to a man which Duke presumed to be in the position of the Bailiff. “Would you recite the defendant?”

“Yes Your Venerate.” The skinny man hurried to snatch a book off of the judge’s desk, and then motioned for Duke to come forward. “Please place your right hand on the Law of the Members, and raise your left.”
Duke scowled at the Bailiff. “Then you’re gonna have to take off these bracelets.” The Bailiff looked towards the judge.
“Your Venerate?”
The judge screwed his face up in thought. Duke sighed and shifted his weight. “It’s one or the other. Either you swear-or ‘recite’ me in, or you unlock me. I’m not a contortionist; you can’t have both.”
The Bailiff again looked towards the judge, who waved his hand. “Take them off, and then put them back on again. In front this time.” The Bailiff nodded, and Duke followed the instructions.
“According to the Law of the Members, Article 55, Paragraph 9, according to the standards of all Flat Earth courts…” Duke cut the Bailiff off.
“You mean there’s more of you guys?”
The Bailiff nodded and continued. “According to the standards of all Flat Earth courts, do you, Duke Matthew Chupa, agree to tell only the truth, and if you do in fact tell a lie you must be willing to accept the consequences as a result of a mistake, accidental or deliberate, on your behalf?”
Duke nodded. He had no choice.
“You may take your seat.”
Duke headed back to the bench near his attorney, but the Bailiff put a hand on his shoulder, turning him around. “Next to the judge.” He whispered.
“Right.” Duke stiffly walked towards the judge and took the assigned seat. He looked up at the judge, who didn’t dare meet his judgmental gaze. The Bailiff slowly walked around the desk to where Duke was sitting and held up the handcuffs.
“I have to put these cuffs back on you. Please hold up your hands.”
Duke did as he was told. Then he took a deep breath, and began. “I think…It started my first day on the job. A friend of a friend of mine hired me to accompany her to the London Hall of Archaeologists-we were going to photograph their fiftieth anniversary meeting, and publish a front page article in the London Update, the paper that she was a photojournalist for. ”
The judge cleared his throat.
Duke stopped and looked up. “Yeah?”
“What day was it?”
“Um…one week ago as of-today.”
“Thank you, carry on.”

The Economy and Its Affect on America’s Crime Rate – Past and Future

In the 1990s the crime rate in the U.S. dropped dramatically in all significant categories, including violent crime and property crime. Some experts attribute this drop to the strong economy that existed throughout most of the decade, when the per capita income increased by as much as 30% and the unemployment rate dropped by 2%[1]. These numbers have pushed many experts in the field to speculate on the potential effects that today’s recessed economy will have on the crime rate for the foreseeable future.

There is no doubt that a strong economy encourages a lower crime rate, for many reasons. While many experts could not directly attribute the drop in violent crime to the increase in economic strength seen in the 1990s, they did attribute it to additional state funding for police departments and crime prevention measures. The drop in property crime, specifically theft, was directly relational to the increase in economic prosperity[2]. The indications of this study show that when citizens have the resources to provide for their needs they are less likely to turn to crime as a way of providing for themselves and their families, and those individuals who are more likely to commit violent crimes are often deterred or caught in the act through increased intervention by law enforcement made possible by sufficient financial resources.

Studies have also shown that children who grow up in homes whose annual income is at or below poverty level are also more likely to engage in criminal activity as teens and adults, and a recent study done by the Christian Association for Prison Aftercare discovered that over 53% of those individuals who are currently incarcerated had an average income of $10,000 or less[3]. Despite the controversy that these studies have sparked, there is little question in anyone’s mind that a recessed economy, accompanied by the dramatic rise in unemployment and drop in per capita income that accompany the recession, will ultimately lead in an increase in crime rate if proactive measures are not taken.

The economic stimulus plan that is going into effect under President Obama may offer a solution to the threatening increase in crime. Through his development plan steps will be taken to provide for those living in poverty, including children and senior citizens, increasing federally funded health care coverage and tax cuts and creating a number of federally funded jobs that are expected to have a dramatic impact on the unemployment rate and begin to repair the damage that the economic recession has wrought[4].

One can only hope that these steps will also serve to head off any notable increase in crime rate as well.

[1] Levitt, S. (2004). Understanding why crime fell in the 1990s: Four factors that explain the decline and six that do not. Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 18.

[2] Ibid

[3] Williams, J. (2007). Poverty and crime.

[4]Espo, D. (2009, February 14). Stimulus bill heads to President’s desk. The Free Lance Star, pp. A1, A9.

Security in the Modern-Day Church Environment

No one needs tell us that we no longer live in the same world our mothers and fathers grew up in. Violent acts happen every day in the United States, and for that matter in every country on earth. Many of us can remember the time when most churches didn’t even have locks on the doors, and counted on the decency of even thieves not to bother the church, it’s possessions, and even it’s members, at least while they were physically attending their place of worship. This is sadly no longer the case, as we are not safe, even, in our places of worship, however there are many things which can be done to ensure the safest environment possible in which to Worship God, fellowship, and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We as Christians are by nature very trusting of those of whom we don’t know, and this information is not being offered in a manner, in which to turn those of who may read it, from that most Christ-like trait. However it is offered in the hope that it may be helpful to church pastors and administrators, and aid them in formulating their own plans in which to address some of the issues we will discuss in this article.

Most churches that I know of don’t have an emergency plan (for anything). That’s right! No plan, or plans at all: no fire evacuation plan, no plan to deal with a surprise visit by violent protestors, no plan to deal with an emergency medical situation, and certainly no plan to deal with what is called in the law-enforcement community, as, an active shooter. Someone who has entered the sanctuary with a weapon and has actively engaged members of the congregation, or to engage a particular member of the same.

Now I certainly realize church pastors and administrators have many other problems to address in the performance of their duties, but the safety and security of the members of the congregation should certainly be addressed and planned for in some fashion, and if this article makes you think and make plans to address these issues, or at least start a dialogue among church leaders to deal with these issues, then I feel we will have accomplished something of great and lasting merit.

Let us first take a look at something we are all somewhat familiar with: the fire drill. This would be a good topic to bring up first in a deacon’s or church elder’s meeting. This would be a wonderful time to bring in the local Fire Chief. He or she has the expertise to offer suggestions, and help you to develop a fire evacuation plan. Suggestions of which I’m sure would include components such as:

o Assigning at least three church members in advance to assist certain elderly or infirmed members out of the building. That is three assigned to each one, if possible, because some may be unable to help, or simply not in church that day. This should be, if possible, people who could carry them out if necessary.
o Ushers should know how many people are seated in their area. This is a normal procedure, as most churches keep attendance records anyway. If three or more ushers write these figures down, it will make an accurate count possible to ascertain if there is anyone left in the church building.
o Have a designated place to meet, and have each usher count his own section. No one should leave until they have been accounted for, as someone may later risk their life in trying to save someone who is on their way home. Also, make sure the place you pick as a designated meeting place is safe. Your local Fire Department can assist you in making this decision. A parking lot may look safe to you, but may be hazardous because of overhead wires, or its close proximity to gas or propane tanks.
o Remember nothing replaces a good fire prevention program. Have the church sanctuary and all accompanying structures inspected at least once a year by a qualified fire inspection officer. This could accompany the annual fire prevention week in October, for example. Remember also to remind the congregation to check their own homes also.
o Remember to check all fire extinguishers yearly, and have an adequate number available. Most churches have members who are members of the local Fire Department, and any decision to stay and fight anything, but the smallest of fires with extinguishers should be left up to them. A fire can soon become too big to handle, even when properly trained. No one should risk their lives in an attempt to save property. Remember the importance of working with your local Fire Department and develop a viable plan. Who knows, you may even gain a member.

Now let us address the topic that so sadly has affected many churches, and for that matter many other public and private institutions all over the world, and that is the “active shooter”. Now I realize that this is probably the most foreign subject matter to anyone who’s goal it is to study the Word of God, but as church pastors and administrators we must accept the responsibility to plan for such an event, while at the same time pray that it will never happen. This is certainly an issue that warrants bringing in local Law-Enforcement officials to assist you in planning for such an eventuality. Many of these departments have already established policies and protocols for many public schools and other institutions, and I’m sure would be more than willing to assist church leaders in developing a plan as well. Some suggestions may include:

o Working with members of the congregation who are law-enforcement officers to build a plan, and identifying them to members of the congregation. These should be your “go to” people in an emergency, but still every one should know what to do in case of an “active shooter” situation. Many police officers enter a different mode when certain things or signs are observed. Their “Height of Awareness” is elevated, as we say in certain environments and situations. They see things that most people miss, but sadly, especially in less populated areas, they, too, see church as being a safe sanctuary whereby they can leave the pressures of the world outside, along with their badge and their service handgun. To these officers I’ll just say “it is better to have it and not need it, then to need it, and not have it!” These same people that you are sworn to protect everyday depend on you in God’s house too.

o Rotating ushers to watch the main door of the church during the service, and that these ushers have the ability to lock the doors if they see any sign of danger from with-out. For example:

1. Obvious display of a weapon, rifle cases, or other bags or luggage carried by strange or other unfamiliar people. Be on the look out for people who are dressed in such a way as to conceal their identity, or possibly to conceal weapons. If it is too warm for an over-coat, for example, why do they have one on? Erratic driving into the church parking lot, followed by the occupants exit from the vehicle in a strange or agitated state. Sadly this, too, can be applied to any type of strange behavior from a known member of the congregation. The pressures of life, as well as many other physical and psychological factors can affect even those of whom we’ve known and loved for years. Always be on the look out for strange or aggressive behavior from “all” of your congregation. Often slight changes in a person’s schemata, or scheme in the way in which they think, is a sub-conscious cry for help, and if left unnoticed can lead to drastic deeds and terrible results. Again, if strange behavior is noticed in the “Pre-Entry Stage”, locking the door may delay, or even preclude entry. It is also beneficial for cell phones to be carried by all ushers, to make it possible to contact the police, and if the doors must be locked, develop an expedient, calm, and structured notification process. This would be a helpful time also to have an armed off- duty police officer in attendance. Not only is it best to let a police officer handle the situation because of his training, but there are other factors involved in the use of force in regards to repelling an armed intruder. One other thing that should be stressed that in this present day of cell phone availability, is that one person call 911, or your local emergency number. It is best to have several people designated to ensure that one of them makes the call and follows the directions of the emergency dispatcher. If there is a police officer present he will probably make the call, but if he or she has someone else make the call be sure to tell the dispatcher the officer’s name, department and description. This is especially important in larger urban and metropolitan areas, as the likelihood of the off-duty officer not being known personally by the responding officers is far more likely than in a small town or a more rural area. Now these procedures, of course, apply to someone who has been spotted before they gain entrance. Now, once again these are only suggestions. Remember listen to your local law enforcement officials for their input and suggestions.

2. Now many of you are probably thinking to yourselves that,” this sounds good, but what can we do if someone does gain entrance into our church and does start shooting?” This is something that you will have to discuss with your local law enforcement officials, but some of their plans or suggestions may include:

o Use of off-duty police officers as security. As stated before, some attend anyway, and would be glad to help, remember most don’t come prepared to act in this way, as in some rural areas, we still live in a very psychologically protected environment. In short, people still have the “it can’t happen here, to us” type of mind set.
o The retention of a private security firm. This is, of course, an option for larger congregations only, and I recommend that church leaders and pastors who feel they would benefit from the retention of a private security firm, contact first their local law enforcement officials for their input, as the quality of these firms vary greatly from one to another, and you could be putting your congregation at a higher risk than you would have by having nothing at all. It is always good form to have the help, and the blessing of the local law enforcement officials. You may be surprised of what they’ll be willing to do if your pastor and church leaders voice their concerns.
o The church may use certain select members of the congregation as security personnel, after sending them, of course, through whatever State mandated program for private security officers, and after doing a complete threat level analysis with the assistance of law enforcement officials. Remember – doing it in- house, as it were, has both its advantages, and, yes, alas, its disadvantages. First of all, going back to my signature caveat, this is THE time to speak with local law -enforcement officials. First, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of using regular members of the congregation that are not sworn law enforcement officers. Every State has different laws in regards to the use of armed security personnel, methods of certification, background checks, and other criteria. Other factors include:

1. Liability of the church.
2. Individual liability of the church leadership.
3. Liability of the church member performing the duties of a security officer.
4. Level of training required and level of training desired. Some States have very good courses for private security, while others teach you just enough to be dangerous.

Some advantages are:
1. Less expensive than private security.
2. More vigilance and enthusiasm. Nothing beats a Christian volunteer for enthusiasm.
3. Availability of members of the congregation who are former police officers, military personnel, and professional security personnel. These are ready-made sources of experienced and qualified individuals for church administrators to draw from if, after close consultation with local law-enforcement agencies and officials, the pastor and church administrators desire to start such a program.

Some disadvantages are:

1. Liability, liability, and liability. I hope you consult with:
o Local law enforcement
o The church attorney
o The church’s insurance agent
o Placing one member of the church in danger to protect another

Now, one thing I’d like to interject at this time is this: you may already have certain members of your congregation armed and not know it. Many States have laws in which citizens of whom have met certain requirements are permitted to carry concealed handguns. These laws vary greatly from state to state, and I suggest again, that you contact your local law enforcement agencies for their input on this matter. Now, I can hear the collective sigh from the crowd, as those of you might say, “This sounds too complicated for us, and I just can’t see sister Esther packing a handgun, or anything else for that matter, to Sunday School.” So what to do? Well there are a few things that have been suggested by some experts. In relationship to school shootings, for example, for instance:

o The teacher shouts “NOW”, or another designated individual, if necessary, and when they do, all of the students, or in this case, the congregation, throws the “Book” at the armed intruder.

Now it must be remembered what we spoke about earlier, and that is the importance of having a plan. Now we must understand that when an armed individual makes it into our sanctuary or onto our church grounds, we must have a collective response. For example, can you imagine if an armed individual was met by fifty or more copies of the “Baptist Hymnal” being hurled through the air toward them. Yes, this may be drastic, yes, this does take courage, but inaction only adds to the terror, no one can know beforehand what they would do in a violent shooting situation such as this, so as I’ve stated before get with your local law enforcement officials, and craft your own Emergency Response Program. I can’t tell you what to do, only to give you this opportunity, and thereby make you think about the unthinkable, and hopefully develop a plan, with God’s help to stay safe and protected. Now let us change topics in this introductory article to another difficult subject, as we’ll deal with in our next section: Child predation, its warning signs, and relationship to the church community, and to the community at large.

I’m sure that many have heard of a certain denomination’s perennial problem with child molestation and abuse, but this is by no means a singular problem within a certain isolated church or doctrine. I have learned in my experience in both law enforcement, and as a former magistrate that there is “NO” norm or guideline whereby individuals that may, or have committed, these terrible acts can be clearly identified. They come from all walks of life, all professions, economic backgrounds, and educational levels. Some of the most polite and mild-mannered individuals that have appeared before me, or that I have interrogated have been pedophiles. We will not deal with an in-depth psychological study of their problem at this time, but however, deal with some of the resources at the disposal of the pastor and church administrators in dealing with, and identifying potential problems within their congregations and their communities. As I stated earlier, there are no sure signs, but some things that should foster concern among church leaders, especially in relationship to people that are either new to the community, or are otherwise unknown, are:

o Someone who has no apparent prior church background, who has recently joined the congregation, that is peculiarly interested in assisting in youth groups, and has no, or little interest in attending any of the extra-curricular functions held for adults only. This does not mean someone who has had a long history of working with youth in another locality, and should be trusted and that is trustworthy, but that should be verified. Be safe not sorry, call the pastor of their previous church. And consult the website at the article’s end.
o Trust your intuition. If something seems wrong, there just might be. Stay vigilant.
o Always have a chaperone of both genders at all church youth functions. Individuals who are insistent that they can take the children on the retreat, or other function without help should be monitored.
o Married couples are, of course, safer, but if they are totally new to the church, access should still be limited, until a better feel for their trustworthiness can be realized.
o It goes without saying an unmarried man of any age that you do not know, should not teach Sunday School unsupervised.
o Pedophiles also are very specific. This is not always the case, but a large percentage of them for example are very age specific, and of course gender specific. This could lead possibly to an individual wanting to teach a specific age group, and not another, wanting to help or teach young teens, and not wanting to help with the younger children. Now don’t become unduly suspicious, remember these are suggestions and tools whereby you can make good decisions to protect our children. Just because one might not want to teach middle school children might mean they have the ability to drive you to psychosis, I know they do me.

Now let’s look at some of the possible warning signs of abuse:

o Any drastic change in the child’s behavior, being withdrawn, or abnormally out-going, when they have not been so in the past.
o Being excessively clinging to parent, or parents, when not having been so in the past.
o Unwilling to go on activities previously enjoyed, fear of certain individuals that were once liked, or even admired. Remember this is only a possible sign. Remember, abused children often withdraw into an inner-world, and may fear not just the abuser, but everyone whom the child does not trust, or that reminds the child of the abuser. So don’t assume that the first person your child shrinks from is an abuser. Remember, children often do not tell parents or others of the abuse that is taking, or has taken place. Some keep these secrets hidden for years, and some sadly, keep them inside, which renders them unable to cope with everyday life, and increases their chances of drug and alcohol abuse. Many of the abused children, sadly become abusers themselves.
o Bruises, or other contusions, seen on the child that they find difficult, or apprehensive to explain. Having a long sleeve shirt on when it is much too warm for such a garment, may be an effort to hide bruises, or contusions.
o Medically unexplained bouts of constipation, bruising or irritation of the anal area, or in the genital regions. Unexplained shyness while toileting before parents (this applies to younger children) when usually they exhibit no apprehension.

Remember, sadly, that the old axiom that the boys are safe with the men, and the girls are safe with the women does not always hold true. The “Diverse Chaperone Policy” works best. Remember, if there are two genders from different house holds, of different ages, at a function the better off everyone is. This is a two-way street. Also remember, your youth leader may only be just a few years older than some of the teens he or she supervises. It is just as possible to have one of the teens develop an obsession for the youth leader. You get the point! It is best two have the “Diverse Chaperone Policy”, thereby protecting the children, and the church, its members and officers from any false accusations. In short, this type of chaperone system protects everyone involved.

Remember these are guidelines only. The major purpose of this article is to make you think about these painful subjects we would all rather not talk about. Stay vigilant, but don’t fashion opinions about others too quickly, or too slowly. If child abuse, or for that matter, any abuse is suspected it is best to contact the authorities. Let them investigate the issue. Don’t make any allegations yourself, but discreetly contact the authorities. This is the reoccurring theme I hope by now you’ve noted. Your local law enforcement officials should be glad to help you, and will help you I’m sure, to address any of your concerns. Many things can and should be handled within the church, and many things should not be. It takes a wise pastor and church administration to know the difference.

Let’s quickly look at a few more issues. Bomb threats. Now this was dealt with in a similar fashion in the section on fire drills, as both require an immediate and orderly exodus from the church. Again a safe meeting place outside must be designated with the help of the local authorities. Here is another case where vigilance a key factor. If someone, especially a stranger or other suspicious individual, leaves the sanctuary abruptly or nervously during the service, and leaves a package behind, evacuate the building, and don’t touch the package. Especially if an usher, or anyone, notices the forgotten package, or bag, and calls attention to the leaving individual, and they refuse to return for the item. This sends up the red flag as it were. Also we must look at the church buildings in general. Aspects such as properly lit parking lots and entrances are extremely beneficial to promoting a safer environment. Again, your local law enforcement officials will be glad to assist you in helping to make your surroundings and your congregations safer. Just another case of being more vigilant and aware of the environment in which we live. You are the pastor, and have the ability to see the majority of the congregation while standing in the pulpit. Preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and keep your eyes open for danger. For the shepherd knows his sheep. And while our faith lies with the “Good Shepherd”, we must be good stewards of “His” flocks.

Also I would like to include a helpful resource, which will enable you to periodically check to see if there are possibly any individuals in your area to be concerned with, in regards to your children or to your congregation. You should surely consult this list in regards to ascertain if someone unknown to you has a desire to participate in any youth programs. While remembering this resource of course only includes those individuals of who have been previously convicted of any violent or sexual crime, and does not include all infractions. Please refer to the following internet website. www.registeredoffenderslist.org

Remember to always consult the local authorities before making any emergency plans as local laws differ greatly and it is always best to obtain their input first. Who knows, by starting a dialogue with them you may interest them in the church and its activities, and thereby bring them into our fold as members, that they become believers in Christ Jesus as well as we are. I have been a law enforcement officer, and have worked with them for many years, and while they have great compassion for people in trouble and in need, many times they neglect themselves and their own spiritual well-being. They and all of the emergency services personnel need our prayers and our support. The Fire Fighters, Police Officers, Emergency Medical Personnel, Emergency Dispatchers, Military Personnel, and all of the other people who give their all, to help keep us safe, need our prayers, and yes our help and counsel to do their jobs, and to help make life as easy as possible for them.

Statutory Rape Laws in Arizona

Statutory Rape carries with it some seriously dark connotations. Simply by containing the word “rape” the term brings an image of an unwilling participant being forced in awful circumstances. In reality, statutory rape laws essentially represent an inability of the victim to legally consent to sex, however do not generally involve forcible rape charges. This article is specifically directed at still-teen relationships, however the author would go so far as to include anyone charged with the crime less than four years apart from the victim. This article will also focus on Arizona law, the author’s home state. Please be aware that laws vary from state to state, and you should reference your own state’s statutes to determine the laws in your area.

According to the Arizona Revised Statute 13-1405, “a person commits sexual conduct with a minor by intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with any person who is under eighteen years of age.” There are no exceptions or qualifications, aside from extra penalties for “trusted persons” such as parents, teachers, or the clergy.

Contrary to popular opinion and rumors of a “three year rule,” the only exception to the statutory rape law is that the victim is between 15-17 and the accused is under 19 or is still in high school and is no more than 24 months older.

To put these laws into a more simple format:
(1) Any adult having sexual relations with a person under 15 years old is in violation.
(2) Any adult over the age of 19 years and 1 day old who is not in high school and has sex with a person under 18 is in violation
(3) Any adult who is more than 24 months older than the victim is in violation unless under 19.
(4) Any adult who is still in high school but is less than 24 months older than the victim is not in violation.

It is also an affirmative defense in Arizona to prove that the accused did not know the victim’s age at the time the crime was committed. It is also a defense that the two were married at the time.

It is important to educate young men and women who have recently graduated high school on these complex and at times arbitrary laws. Since many people between 17-19 have contact on a regular basis, it is conceivable that a recent graduate could be in technical violation of the law, even if that person had been in a preexisting relationship. Ignorance of the law is not a defense, and conviction of statutory rape carries jail time as well as registry as a sex offender.

If you have been accused of statutory rape in Arizona, contact a criminal defense lawyer in Phoenix. A criminal defense attorney in Arizona will have specific knowledge of the statutes and affirmative defenses, as well as experience with the specific court in question. Going it alone is never advisable, as simple procedural slip-ups can cost you years in jail.

Life Coaching For Teens: Section III – Part III – Life Mission, Where Am I Going?

Mission: Where Am I Going?

One of the biggest crossroads for young people is that fork in the road after High School. What I mean is, it’s the place many young people get stuck. Even those who go on to college find themselves lost, many can’t make up their minds of what to major in. And those who do graduate with a degree often times don’t enter the same field they studied for. After High School I went to college and earned a degree in Criminal Justice. Then I became a Correctional Officer for seven and half years but I was miserable in my job. I soon discovered Law Enforcement was not for me.

I didn’t like what I was doing. In retrospect I thought I had spent all that time for nothing. Then I spent the next sixteen years of my life as a minister and thoroughly enjoyed it. Inside I knew it wasn’t a lifetime passion of mine. After contemplating my life and putting the puzzle pieces together I came to this conclusion. I have certain values and care about right and wrong. Law Enforcement helped me understand that crime was the wrong thing to do, and ministry helped me understand that there’s a right way to live life and a wrong way.

In the end, I wanted to help people understand that a better way of life was possible for them so I went to college and earned my master’s degree with life coaching as a second emphasis. Now, I want to teach the next generation how to live an abundant life. This is why I’m writing this Life Coaching for Teens workbook, to help young people not do the mistakes many teens make but to start life out on the right track.

1. Don’t Spread Yourself too Thin – “You can’t change everything.”

You must remember that you can’t change everything but you can start doing the “one thing” you have been designed and destined to do. I remember, as a teenager, I had all these idealistic dreams about life and rightly so. Youth is a time to dream and think BIG. Don’t stop doing that! However, we can’t change “everything.” There will be so many things out there that will challenge you. You must find the “one” thing that will make you a history maker.

2. Find the One Thing: “When I find my niche no one can talk me out of it.”

If you have not found the “one thing” you were destined to do with your life, you soon will. However, when you find the “one thing” you were destined to do in life, no one will be able talk you out of it. Reflect on this truth for a moment, then use the following space to write a brief essay called “The One Thing”.

Life Coaching for Teens: http://bit.ly/i2FgOg