Finding Jesus in All the Wrong Places: Man Barred From Church Under North Carolina’s Sex Offender Laws

pntdanilIn Raleigh, James Nichols says he wants to find God but he can’t find him in North Carolina. The convicted sex-offender was arrested when he tried to attend church because he is not allowed to be present on any property where children are present, such as in the church’s daycare center. It is only the latest in a series of cases that pit the freedom of religion against sex offender laws.

We have previously seen cases of sex offenders raising free exercise claims, here. As politicians impose wider and wider prohibitions on where sex offenders may live or work, ex-felons are having to live in forests and under bridges to avoid prohibited areas, here. In some cases these laws amount to virtual banishment by barring virtually every block in a given city, here.

To add to the problems, states have been defining sex offender to include a wide array of offenses, including consensual acts between teenagers, here.

Nichols, 31, was convicted twice of indecent liberties with a teen girl and again in 2003 for attempted second-degree rape. He is barred under a law that bars his being within 300 feet of any place intended primarily for the use, care or supervision of minors among other geographic limitations. Thirty-six states establish such prohibited zones. He was arrested after attending Sunday services at the Moncure Baptist Church.

State legislators are unapologetic. Democratic state Sen. David Hoyle, who sponsored the law insists, “I’m not denying him the right to go to church. He denied himself that . . . If they are a convicted pedophile, they have given up a lot of their rights.” I would have thought that politicians would want offenders to find God and seek a moral lifestyle.

These cases will present a fascinating challenge under the free exercise clause and could impose some limitations on the current rush to expand prohibited zones for ex-offenders.

For the full story, click here.

10 thoughts on “Finding Jesus in All the Wrong Places: Man Barred From Church Under North Carolina’s Sex Offender Laws”

  1. Mike A.,

    If it was good enough for Dante it is good enough for them. (I am only kidding.) Once a debt to society has been paid it should be a done deal.

  2. There is a growing tendency in this country to believe that punishment for one’s crimes must never end, that the time one spends in prison must be followed by a lifetime of penance spent in isolation from the rest of humanity, forever an outcast without fundamental rights, a state of perpetual banishment. It applies to offenders of every sort, and even to those whom we merely suspect, or who have had the misfortune to be condemned by arbitrary geography, such as confinement at Guatanamo, without charges of any kind. Fear and loathing in the USA, the toxic mix of ignorance and Old Testament religious fundamentalism. This nation is quickly abandoning nobility and embracing retribution, exchanging freedom for a tenuous and false sense of security.

  3. If a kid is prosecuted for making child porn when he/she takes a cell phone picture of him/herself, would that kid be banned as a sex offender from being around other kids? Could they be treated in a Children’s hospital or be seen in a pediatrician’s office?

    But more importantly: What, exactly do these legislators envision the end result being? I doubt anyone really thinks that these laws will actually eliminate sex crimes, let alone child sexual abuse. So it’s really about pushing these ex-cons around. But what do they think the end game is? Do they really intend to have thousands of people living in the woods, unemployable and on some sort of welfare for decades until they die? I’d bet that if they were actually pressed on this issue, they would shrug – I doubt they could care less.

  4. What about an offender who’s conviction had nothing to do with children or pedophilia? What about the offender’s children, does this law force their children to go to the park or church unattended, even if the parent was not convicted of a crime involving children. Why does every law involving sex offenders assume the person is a pedophile? Doesn’t this just add to the hysteria? Isn’t this just one more case of a politician pandering to the hysterical & uninformed as well as the media to get elected?

  5. Insane registry laws and restrictions did not prevent the perverts, Philip Garrido AND HIS WIFE from doing what they did! The registry laws, and especially the residency / work place restrictions, have done far more harm than good. Forget about all the cases of vigilantism and suicide; forget about the fact that while these laws are proposed to protect the children, they include children, while a huge percentage of those on the list committed crimes that had nothing to do with children; forget about the fact that study after study has proven these laws not only are ineffective, but have actually made matters worse. Forget about the fact that upon release from custody, sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates, not the highest. In fact those who receive counseling and treatment have outstanding records versus those convicted of other violent crimes! The fact is the registry and any restrictions should be limited to those who are proven child molesters and pedophiles; that Law Enforcement could handle and monitor effectively. Do you seriously believe a committed pedophile cannot walk or drive 500, 1000, 2500, 5000 feet or more? Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted miles from where Philip Garrido lived!

    I am sure we will see comments from hysterical, uninformed individual(s) who will suggest that all those on the registry should be locked up for life or worse and say there is no rehabilitation for these people. And for a few they are right, we need to focus on those! Once a person has done their time that should be it. That is the foundation of this great country and its legal system. Don’t like it, move to China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, or wherever individual rights are ignored. If a person is a pedophile, lock them up for a long time and provide treatment. Treatment not working, keep them locked up. Many families are being destroyed for political expediency; children of those on the registry are being abused and ostracized at school. Whole families are forced into isolation and restricted from the work place. If the registry is to truly protect the children, then let’s focus on the pedophiles and child molesters’. Get rid of the residency/work place restrictions, focus on the loitering laws. Let the rest on the registry re-assimilate into society after they have done their time, become solid, productive citizens; part of the solution not the problem. The facts, (and the Garrido case) as well as virtually all of the research, and study after study have proven what we are doing now, mostly for political expediency and to appease hysterical uninformed parents is not working and is in fact making matters worse!

  6. AY & HB,

    So perhaps a compromise is in order, is there a “First Church of Adults Only” … or are they limited to “First Church of Dolts” I wonder?

    Opie be knowin’ …

  7. Oh, I hope this guy calls the ACLU on this one — I’d love to see what Antonin “Since when are crosses Christian symbols?” Scalia would have to say. Probably, “since when is prohibiting someone from attending church interefering with free exercize?”

    That said, having this guy near a Sunday School is not what Jesus meant by “suffer the little children.” (Sarcasm off.)

  8. Now Dredd,

    They do have to take care of Opie, you know Andy done gone off and got married, Aunt Bee died. So alls you have is the likes of Barney and Otis. I was always worried about Howard, you know those swinging bachelors and bachelor pads, with those cool groovy beads. He may have turned into using and selling meth. I think Floyd should be dead by now he was always on his last breath anyway. Now remember when Emmet wanted to join Howard in his pad?

    Then you have the Darling Boys and Earnest T?

    I heard Robert Reed aka Mike Brady was moving to the east coast. You can never trust 2 gay guys named Bob. Because alls you have is Oral Roberts. Don’t you see the dilemma that this man has posed?

  9. Wow, that is rich. King David could not go to church in that state of affairs (the Bathsheba thingy).

    Guess the dude will have to go south to Gov. Sanford land, a better state of affairs I suppose.

    Strange set of affairs here, especially since Jesus said: “But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

    He said that to the populace of a little town similar to any little North Carolina town.

    I’m going to “go figgur” now …

  10. Well, well. One can only hope that the absolute punishment metes the crime intended. This law needs recapitalization, the people are not as far put as they could be. The ones that get me is when a 12 year old must register as a Sex Offender and is ruined for life for being a child with urges.

    Now 12 and 50 I think that the intent of the law. A few years difference not at all, of course unless you are in a position of authority. I do not know enough about this matter to rush to judgment of what is or should not be appropriate.

    If he was at church, then by all means, watch him or her and have the ushers properly provide him direction/ Or heck send him to one of those mega churches, he surly would get lost in the numbers.

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