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March 8, 2015

Can a sheriff prohibit sex offenders from a church that is sometimes a school?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this story coming from North Carolina, headlined "Graham sheriff bans sex offenders from church." Here are the details:

A sheriff in one of North Carolina's smallest counties told sex offenders they can't attend church services, citing a state law meant to keep them from day care centers and schools. Sheriff Danny Millsaps, in Graham County, told the registered offenders about his decision on Feb. 17, according to a letter obtained by the Asheville Citizen-Times on Friday....

"This is an effort to protect the citizens and children of the community of Graham (County)," he wrote. "I cannot let one sex offender go to church and not let all registered sex offenders go to church." He invited them to attend church service at the county jail.

Millsaps, in an interview on Friday, said he may have made a mistake when he wrote that offenders "are not permitted to attend church services." He said he understands the Constitution gives everyone the right to religious freedom. But, he said, he's standing by his take on the law blocking offenders from places where children are present.

"I understand I can't keep them from going to church," he said. "That may have been misunderstood. I'll be the first one to say I might have made mistakes in the wording of that letter." He said he has no immediate plans to arrest a sex offender should one of the 20 in his county attend church on Sunday.

Graham County Manager Greg Cable said the county attorney is looking into the matter and any legal mistakes would be corrected. The American Civil Liberties Union in Raleigh, at the newspaper's request, is reviewing the letter the sheriff sent. The newspaper also sent a copy to the state Department of Justice for an opinion on the law....

Other North Carolina counties have dealt with the same issue. Deputies in Chatham County in 2009 arrested a sex offender for attending church, citing the same law. A state Superior Court judge eventually ruled the law, as applied to churches, was unconstitutional.

In Buncombe County, sex offenders are permitted in church as long as pastors know and are in agreement, Sheriff Van Duncan says. That's similar to the county's policy for allowing sex offenders at school events such as ball games. They are allowed as long as school administrators have warning and the offenders are monitored to some extent, the sheriff said. The law allows schools to do this, a factor the judge noted back in 2009 in the Chatham County case.

Duncan said if a sex offender threatens a child at a church or school event, the law can be enforced and used to ban the offender. He said church leaders in Buncombe County, generally, want to minister to sex offenders.

The law applies to churches that run schools Monday-Friday the same as it would apply to county or city schools during the week. Sex offenders are generally banned from school property.

March 8, 2015 at 11:39 AM | Permalink


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Aaah Yes, so we don't give a hoot if sex offenders are near their own children, much less a church, we of course make no hoots if drug dealers or gang members attend church, its for rehab right?

Posted by: Alex | Mar 8, 2015 12:06:49 PM

What really bothers me is that the "legal community" actually thinks that this is an appropriate question with research and answers and waiting for droppings from the judicial community to come to legal principles. What a waste of mental energy and utter BS, but that's what happens when you try to justify further abuses by polishing the turd that is Doe vs. Smith. Keep that polish coming, it will take a lot of mental gymnastics to continue this stupidity.

Maybe SC is right, it is merely for lawyer rent seeking. I can think of no other justification except deliberate self-deception.

Posted by: albeed | Mar 8, 2015 5:01:25 PM

what cracks me up is this is a direct violation of the 2002 USSC decision that make the damn illegal registry legal to begin with.

I would simply remove any gov't stooge who told me this.

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 9, 2015 3:53:59 AM

Okay, so here goes -- It's been a while since I've commented on here but I'm on the registry and have been for a while now.

Being on the registry means that you are functionally banished from being a full member of society. It impacts every aspect of your life -- your living situation, housing, jobs, travel, friendships, romantic relationships, education, you name it. It is so easy to let it, for lack of a better word, become your identity. That being a sex offender is the most salient thing about you, regardless of what your crime was, how long ago it was, what has happened since, and who you are now.

Church, for me, has played an important role in changing that. When I started attending my church, I told the pastors my story and they didn't blink an eye. I didn't tell anyone else about my past, but I attended services, volunteered, and did what I suppose everyone else who goes to church does which is be a part of that community.

Eventually, my story became general knowledge in the congregation because of a media story. I went to church the day after the story ran, not knowing what the reception was going to be. Instead of hate, people showed me love, hugged me, and told me I was in the right place.

I was a sex offender, and it didn't matter. My experience with church began to show me how I did not have to be defined by my crime; it's an experience that runs contrary to all the other effects that the registry brings about in people on it. It is, for all intents and purposes, a modern day scarlet letter made indelible in this information age of ours.

I understand that there's fear about sex offenders, and I understand that everyone wants to keep their kids safe. Maybe excommunicating sex offenders from the body politic of modern society makes people feel safer, but I wonder if having a group of people who can never be anything but the worst thing that they've ever done makes it more likely that they just give up on trying to do anything differently. How does that make anyone safer?

So I'm disheartened to read stories like this. I get that there aren't many easy answers, but surely this can't be one of them.

Posted by: Guy | Mar 9, 2015 10:08:41 AM


The sad part is that there are easy answers but the deliberate hate and ignorance of the legislators followed by the self-deception of the judiciary permit this to occur in this country. I am sure this is OK for some readers (C&C) who have never met a government hate law they didn't like (apologists anyone). The law is not God, but pretends to be.

Any consequence or limit that is not made at the original sentencing, should be thrown out for the legislative rubbish that it is! If that is not true, you may as well throw out the ex post facto and bill of attainder clause as they are just words. What other portions will become just words in the future? I don't need a judge to explain it to me. Lawyers are not as smart as they think they are, or they are the biggest cowards around. Take your pick.

Posted by: albeed | Mar 9, 2015 1:01:47 PM

Guy | Mar 9, 2015 10:08:41 AM:

There is an easy answer and it is to get rid of the Sex Offender Registries (SORs). That will instantly solve all of these "problems" and make us all safer as well. I truly believe that the SORs are idiotic social policy and people are dreaming if they believe otherwise.

It is great to hear that you had such a positive experience at your church. That is how a church should work.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Mar 9, 2015 1:16:18 PM

I think it's funny. they want to start new criminal countries for those they fear. if the fuck ups knw history they would know it's been tried.

United States of America

just ask the English how well that turned out for them.

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 9, 2015 5:31:05 PM

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