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ACLU wins court case allowing sex offenders to attend church where children are present

By Emily Lewis 5:45 AM November 13, 2017
Kids with their teacher (illustration)

Sex offenders in Indiana won the right to attend church while children are present.

The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that sex offenders can attend church services even when children are present to attend Sunday school.

A case was filed in court after the Boone County Sheriff’s Office sent letters to his county’s registered sex offenders in July 2015, informing them of a new law that prohibits serious sex offenders from entering school property.

School property, under the interpretation of the law by the state, includes a church if the church conducts Sunday school or if it has a child care facility.

The letter stated that sex offenders face arrest and prosecution if they entered a church.

Three sex offenders, whose names were not revealed, sought a court injunction so that they can attend church services.

The ACLU, who represented the three men, cited Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and argued that preventing the men from attending services, even when children are present, placed a “substantial burden on their exercise of religion.”

“Everyone seeks religious service for different reasons, and to exclude someone seems problematic. It is a very serious infringement on rights in telling someone they cannot go to religious services,” Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said.

The three-judge panel, Judge Margret G. Robb, Judges Nancy H. Vaidik, and L. Mark Bailey, of the Indiana Court of Appeals, ruled in their favor.

According to the court, the sex offenders have succeeded in demonstrating that their churches are not school property.

Judge Robb said that the trial court misinterpreted the law. “Churches and religious institutions are not schools, nor do they become so by use of the popular and common name of ‘Sunday school,'” she added.