State Law Banning Sex Offenders from Religious Worship Violates RFRA and the U.S. Constitution

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
July 2, 2015 12:15 pm

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INDIANAPOLIS – A state law that went into effect on July 1 that results in banning some sex offenders from attending religious worship violates both the state’s newly enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, claim two men who filed suit against county officials yesterday.

The lawsuit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of John Doe 1 of Allen County and John Doe 2 of Elkhart County, challenges Indiana Code § 35-42-4-14, which prevents “serious sex offenders” from attending religious worship when the place of worship is “school property,” even though school is not in session during the time services occur. The men wish to attend church services without fear of being arrested, because church attendance and group prayer are essential to their ability to worship in a meaningful way.

“An absolute ban on attending religious worship substantially burdens plaintiffs’ exercise of religion under the recently enacted RFRA, and violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk. “The law, which is broadly drawn, is not the least restrictive means of furthering the government’s interest here.”

The case, John Doe 1, John Doe 2, et al., v. The Allen and Elkhart County Prosecutors, and the Sheriffs of Allen and Elkhart County, et al., was filed in the Elkhart Superior Court on July 1, 2015. A case number has yet to be assigned; please contact for a copy of the lawsuit.

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