Sex offenders can attend church services across the state after a ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals yesterday.
The case was based on a 2015 law that prohibits people with sex offenses against children from entering school property.
Kenneth Falk is the legal director of ACLU of Indiana. He says there’s been some confusion over what school property entails. A prosecutor and sheriff in Boone County interpreted the law to apply to churches that offer children’s programming.
“The three plaintiffs in this case were all regular church goers, all obtained a lot of meaning from church, all viewed going to church as part of their continuing rehabilitation from their crime and then suddenly they were told that if they went to church they’d be subject to being arrested and prosecuted for committing a felony,” Falk says.
The plaintiffs argued the interpretation of the law was incorrect and violated Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act which prohibits the government from imposing on a person’s religious exercise.
Falk says up until yesterday, the interpretation has been different among counties. In addition to Boone County, the ACLU has brought cases against Elkhart and Allen Counties.
“Hopefully, the question will now be settled, so there’s no uncertainty around the state as to whether church attendance is something that’s allowed,” Falk says. “I would think that everyone would agree that religious attendance for the reasons that all of us attend houses of worship is a very good thing and particularly a good thing for people who recognize they have committed some serious wrongs in their life.”
Falk says there is no law requiring churches to notify members or visitors of the offender’s attendance.