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RevBaro

Liability for officiating marriage in a state facility?

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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Administrative Directive Number AD-03.42 (rev. 1); Date: July 28/2015; Page 1 of 10: Supersedes: AD-03.42 January 13, 2015

Subject:  Offender Marriages;  Authority: Tex. Fam. Code §§ 2.001-2.012, 2.202; Tex. Gov't code §§ 493.001, 493.006, 494.002; ED-02.04, "Texas Department of Criminal Justice Fundraising,: AD-03.72, "Offender Property;" TDCJ Visitation Plan;  American Correctional Association Standards 4-4293 and 4-4498; Applicability: Texas Dept of Criminal Justice (TDCJ); Policy:  Under Procedures:  Section II; A Officiant ...shall complete the Application of Person Requesting to Perform  Marriage (Attachment A) and submit it to the Access to Courts headquarters at least one week prior to the schedule marriage date.

 

What information is available regarding the subject matter?  

What are the liability issues for "signing this agreement"  for state facility and how does this document relate to "seperation of church and state"?  Is the Officiates signature an agreement with the facility a part of the prisoners permanet file?  Before, during and after ... what are the liabilty issues (pros and cons) for the officant and how does it effect the permanent record for the individual that is officiating?  It has been observed by some individuals (names shall remain unknown) when a person has been incarcerated it is a part of their permanent record and if criminal activity does arise an offender is a suspect then the associates not excluding ministers.  What kind of practical measures can be taken for risk management for the church, ministers, volunteers and members when relating to paroles and individuals that have been incarcerated?

Edited by RevBaro
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On 6/22/2018 at 3:31 AM, RevBaro said:

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Administrative Directive Number AD-03.42 (rev. 1); Date: July 28/2015; Page 1 of 10: Supersedes: AD-03.42 January 13, 2015

Subject:  Offender Marriages;  Authority: Tex. Fam. Code §§ 2.001-2.012, 2.202; Tex. Gov't code §§ 493.001, 493.006, 494.002; ED-02.04, "Texas Department of Criminal Justice Fundraising,: AD-03.72, "Offender Property;" TDCJ Visitation Plan;  American Correctional Association Standards 4-4293 and 4-4498; Applicability: Texas Dept of Criminal Justice (TDCJ); Policy:  Under Procedures:  Section II; A Officiant ...shall complete the Application of Person Requesting to Perform  Marriage (Attachment A) and submit it to the Access to Courts headquarters at least one week prior to the schedule marriage date.

 

What information is available regarding the subject matter?  

What are the liability issues for "signing this agreement"  for state facility and how does this document relate to "seperation of church and state"?  Is the Officiates signature an agreement with the facility a part of the prisoners permanet file?  Before, during and after ... what are the liabilty issues (pros and cons) for the officant and how does it effect the permanent record for the individual that is officiating?  It has been observed by some individuals (names shall remain unknown) when a person has been incarcerated it is a part of their permanent record and if criminal activity does arise an offender is a suspect then the associates not excluding ministers.  What kind of practical measures can be taken for risk management for the church, ministers, volunteers and members when relating to paroles and individuals that have been incarcerated?

Greetings to you my sister,

 

This is probably a question you are going to want to ask an attorney licensed in Texas to answer.  Either that, or contact the Main Office in Modesto and see if they have any insight about this rule.  Since each state has different rules, it's hard for someone like me for example in Wisconsin to know how a rule is interpreted and applied in Texas.  

 

In solidarity,

Rev. Calli

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if i remember the michigan statutes correctly,the only liability involved is on the person hiring the officant.they are responsible for paying the officiant.

i don't remember any applications involved,but the prison chaplain had to ok the officiant.

 

as far as anything being a permanent part of  their record,there is a notation that so and so was married on such and such a date.to the best of my knowledge,there is no copy of the marriage license kept in the files.

 

but as rev cali said,each state has their own laws.texas is one of the easier states to officiate in,but i would echo his suggestion about contacting a lawyer.

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Greeting Revs Calli  and Mark 45, Fellows of the pickle conspiracy,

Thank you for your sound reason and advice.  I will follow up with ULCHQ.  

Sincerely yours

 

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I definitely think it's a matter of state law, and how they interpret this term on the form:

 

https://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/documents/policy/AD0342_Attachment_A.pdf

 

"A person who is an officer of a religious organization and who is authorized by the organization to perform a marriage".

 

Do they mean a corporate officer in an incorporated church?  If you feel dedicated enough to the prison ministry, I know headquarters licenses congregations, in which you could incorporate and be an officer in the incorporated licenced congregation.  

 

Do they mean simply a person officially given a role in that organization who is also ordained?  ULCHQ will print out a title certificate naming you officially whatever Texas requires.  Or they may simply require a notarized Letter of Good Standing.

 

I would probably call the Texas DCJ and ask them exactly what they mean about this provision for "non-Christian, non-Jewish" clergy, by requiring them to state they are "officers in a religious organization".  Explain you take perjury seriously, and you want to know if they're essentially requiring you to incorporate.

 

Just what I would do in your situation from dealing with bureaucracy, all not-lawyer and not-Texan disclaimers apply.

 

---

 

Now, as far as ethics, potential in prison ministry for you to be contacted later or asked to speak about things said to you...

 

If you decide what you feel your role should be based on your own core ethical principles and make those things clear to those who accept your services, I think you will limit your legal liability by setting up your ethics up-front.  

 

For example, I probably would tell any person that I wasn't a Catholic priest or their attorney and there should be no expectation of privilege if I were ever subpoenaed to speak about our conversations -- because my faith holds personal responsibility highly, yet doesn't require confession as a sacrament for forgiveness of wrongs. Along those lines, I'd also explain things that my personal convictions would demand me encourage them to admit themselves but if I couldn't be sure they had/would I would feel a duty to report -- credible confession to a crime for which an innocent person is serving prison time, a crime against a child, or a crime against a vulnerable adult.  

 

I would probably also state up-front that I would reject outright any request to speak at a parole hearing -- if I felt called to do so I would offer, but I could only do that if I felt Called to do so.  That would definitely reduce people seeking my guidance just for testimony later.

 

And finally, I would do as I do with traditional couples -- aside from circumstances demanding expedience and demonstrating commitment (marriage so that a child due to be born in prison or to a parent in prison would be born in matrimony, terminal illness, imminent execution) I would require either a betrothal period (Y&D handfasting) or evidence that prior to prison they had such an established relationship before officiating marriage.  I would explain that I felt officiating a marriage was recognizing a bond that already existed, not creating one, and as such I wouldn't just marry anyone who asked -- but we could do a Year and Day handfasting if they wanted.  Oh, and I wouldn't accept money, because I don't for people on the outside. 

 

Of course, those are the ethical guidelines I feel are correct for my own actions as clergy, in accordance with my beliefs and training.  Yours likely will differ at least somewhere.

 

I think that in most cases beyond signing papers without being certain of the language meant in your checkoff box in official papers, etc, and verifying with perhaps other prison ministries in your state the usual allowed duties and looking at your state's law regarding mandated reporting and circumstances under which privilege may be asserted, having a strong ethical code and following it in your activities during your ministry will protect you from liability, legal and spiritual.

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