Monday, December 14, 2009

Modern-Day Lepers

by Bobby Ross Jr.

Churches try to balance grace and accountability toward sex offenders.

Convicted of indecent liberties with a teenage girl when he was 20 and attempted second-degree rape years later, James Nichols served his prison time—and then found himself back in police custody.

His offense: going to church.

Authorities said the 31-year-old Nichols violated a new North Carolina law that bars sex offenders from coming within 300 feet of any place intended primarily for use, care, or supervision of minors.

Nichols was arrested after worship at Moncure Baptist Church because the church has child-care facilities for families attending services. He is challenging the constitutionality of the law, claiming it violates his religious freedom.

Laws in 36 states establish where sex offenders can—and cannot—live or visit, an Associated Press survey found. Some states provide exemptions for churches, but many do not.

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