August 23, 2016

Adventist Insurer Tells Churches and Schools Not to Overreact to ‘Pokémon Go’

Adventist Risk Management, the Seventh-day Adventist Church-owned insurer, has issued guidelines on how churches and schools should respond to “Pokémon Go” players, advising them to avoid overreacting and to seek opportunities to leave a good impression about Adventists.

Pokémon Go,” a game app that requires players to catch Pokémon characters with their mobile devices at real-life locations, has taken the gaming world by storm since its release in July.

Adventist Church-owned properties have found themselves among the places designated in the game as “PokeStops” or “Gyms,” where players can claim rewards and fight battles.

Adventist Risk Management, which insures Adventist-owned properties around the world, said it has received inquiries about “what to do when trespassers come onto church or school property in search of virtual reality characters such as Pokémon.”

“It can be alarming when strangers attempt to gain access to the property who are not there to participate in church or school activities,” said David Fournier, vice president and chief client care officer at Adventist Risk Management. “Also churches and schools want to avoid being held liable for the injury of a player who hurts themselves exploring their property.”

Fournier, in a statement on the Adventist Risk Management website, offered four tips for churches and schools dealing with Pokémon players:

  • Do not overreact: Most of these people are just innocent gamers who may not have clearly thought through their actions. Others may simply have no respect for property, private or otherwise. Some players are children and must be treated gently and with care. The law holds children at a different level of accountability than an adult. If you do detain or restrain them, you may find yourself in more trouble than they are.
  • Request removal of PokeStop or Gym: You may want to visit the  “Pokémon Go” website to seek removal of a PokéStop or Gym from your property. At the  “Pokémon Go” website, click on the “Support” feature.
  • Post “no trespassing” signs: Do this in addition to the removal request in item two, indicating that the person is entering private property and trespassers, who do not have business here, are not welcome. In the context of a church this should be worded carefully to indicate that people are welcome to visit and attend church, but using the property for personal reasons is not allowed.
  • Coordinate with local law enforcement: Coordinate with local law enforcement if you do have trespassers on the property. Do not take the law into your hands, or put yourself or colleagues in danger by instigating a hostile encounter.

The Adventist Church has not commented on the merits of “Pokémon Go” and the Pokémon media franchise, which has been around since 1995.

But Fournier noted that “Pokémon Go” players could make their first contact with the church through the game.

“Perhaps there is an opportunity here to create a positive impression of Adventists and your ministry to community members who come across your church or school through this game,” Fournier said. “Consider the safety and liability issues at stake, but also take the opportunity to make a positive impression in your community.”