Way back in January, I posted about suddenly getting a bunch of letters from my former church after 22 years away. A lot of you had great information on why they do this and advice on how to get these people off my back. Well, I got lazy, had surgery, and never got around to sending a letter to the church in Montana. Haven't heard from them since January, so I let it slide. Then today - as I'm sitting around in my PJs, hair uncombed, surgically rebuilt arm strapped to my chest, high on Vicodin, and the house a mess - these two guys in suits show up at my door and ask my husband for me! And my husband lets them in, for crying out loud (I'll deal with him later). It turned out they were the pastor and co-pastor of the local SDA church. Said they got a letter from "your pastor in Montana asking them to visit".
Well...I have to say at least I was able to be civil. My suddenly accomodationist husband invited them in, offered them coffee...but I kept them in the entryway and lost no time informing them that their concern was misplaced and that I had no interest in either attending church here in town or maintaining my membership in any SDA church - or any other church - whatsoever. Ever. Under any circumstances. Furthermore, I believe I communicated that I didn't appreciate unsolicited visits.
I'm still sitting here, upset. We live way out in the country and it took some effort for them to find our house. I still feel like I have been stalked, and it really chaps my ass. Hopefully, they got the message loud and clear this time...but they made out like they were all concerned about my wellbeing and future, leading me to believe that they might still try to win me back at some future date. Maybe I should put out a sign?
Dorris-I am so sorry that they put you through that experience! Ugh! I too, am recovering from surgery and I can't imagine how angry I'd feel if someone came to my door to proselytize. Strangely enough, although I have not attended church regularly for years (my parents still do), I do not get any sort of SDA literature in the mail except for the occasional stuff my boyfriend's father has sent me. (We giggle and throw it in the trash.) I am starting to wonder if this is a conference-specific practice.
Anyway, back to your problem, have you considered having a lawyer friend write a letter to your former Montana church telling them you have resigned your membership and that they should never contact you again? (Your hubby can do multiple drafts as penance first.) Tell them that you will view any future attempts as harassment and will take legal steps. I know that sounds serious, but some people just don't understand unless you get legal on them! I have a bad feeling that the local church might see you as a challenging case and do some kind of follow-up call. Maybe you could be proactive and call+draft a letter?
I know you're feeling upset right now, but don't let this take away from your Vicodin-induced relaxation! ;) Heal well, my friend!
For all you know a neighbor of yours could be a member of their church and could have invited them home for Sabbath dinner. Also, even remote addresses aren't hard to find with smart phones. They aren't stalking you and they probably had the best of intentions, but your husband should have told them you weren't in suitable condition to entertain guests and had no interest in rekindling relations with the SDA church and asked them to leave.
What you should do is immediately email the pastor in Montana and resign your membership. To make it easy I'll even write it for you:
I hereby resign my membership with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Please hold a vote at the next business meeting to remove my name from the church books. Furthermore, I request that I no longer receive church publications, phone calls from church members, and visits from pastors and members of the Seventh-day Adventist church.
If your request is not honored within 30 days, then follow up, copying the conference president, identifying that you are an atheist and per the Church Manual they are required to remove your membership for the "sin" of apostasy.
You should also email the local head pastor informing him that the visit was not welcome and that future visits will be considered trespassing. That is enough that under Washington state law you could press trespassing charges if they come to your door again.
I have experience with being stalked in Washington and it's the best you can do.
Yes, I would have to agree with Dustin. That is trespassing.
I gots three words for you, Dorris, to wit:
GOOD. FOR. YOU!!!!!
Any further visits I would treat as trespassing. As a further consideration (and this presumes that you're cool with the local constabulary), I would notify the police about the first unwanted visit. You don't have to tell the police anything about your atheism, but simply that there was an incident at your house which was the product of events at your previous residence, involving the SDA church. You can even call it "stalking" if you want - from where I sit, the term applies.
In any case, have the local police on speed-dial and, should your visitors return, let them see you call police. Throughout all of this, make it clear that THEY are the offending party and that your tolerance for such is NIL.
Washington does not have stalking laws and has very poor harassment laws. Before the police will do anything about trespassing you have to issue the trespasser a no trespass order. I went through all of that with a psychotic stalker that was harassing me at work when I lived in Everett. It didn't matter that I was the manager of a multi-million dollar business in town and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. The only way to get any court order or any legal action would have required that I take up my stalker's offer and sleep with her.
In fact the only time I ever got her hauled off to jail was after an officer that showed up three hours after I placed a criminal trespass call, after I had issued the no-trespass order and the police had it on record, told me that she had a warrant out for her arrest.
Loren has good advise too -- if they see you call the police I think it would help stop this behavior.
Thanks to all who are replying! Maybe "stalking" is too strong a word for these incidents, but they have left me feeling invaded, especially the visit. I know all of my neighbors very well, and none of them are Adventists. I also told them that I have lived in this very same place for 22 (almost 23) years, I know exactly where the local Adventist church is, and that if I had any interest in attending, I would have done so. My attitude toward this is "don't call me, I'll call you". I guess now I'll just have to write that letter.
As far as the trespassing goes, our property is gated. We have "no trespassing" signs in place. We put up the gate about a mile in because we used to get all kinds of kids, Sunday drivers, and weirdos who just had to come down our long drive, apparently just to see where it went. The gate now keeps most of them out, because they see that it's closed from quite a ways away, and if they drove all the way down and found it locked, they'd have to back up for most of a mile (no turnaround). So these two were disturbingly persistent...I guess that's why I'm feeling a little paranoid.
Tiffany - I hope you heal well too!
Walking up to the front door without being told specifically not to is not legally considered trespassing. You should add a "No solicitors" sign, but from my church training on door to door BS, churches are generally exempt from having to honor those kinds of signs. You could be more explicit and put up a sign that says, "No trespassing, soliciting, or evangelizing" and see if that helps.
I have a "No Soliciting" sign up on my door. It really helps.
That's a great idea. I've never even gotten Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses out here, though. I think the gate gets them. We used to have a huge black dog, which helped as well, but he died in 2003 and we never got another.
You could try it out and see how it helps. Before I put out the sign I had all sorts of people coming -- churches, sales people, scouts, etc.