Monday, November 17, 2008

Sex offender law faces ‘religious freedom’ challenge

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Sex offender law faces ‘religious freedom’ challenge.

A provision of Georgia’s sex-offender law that prohibits offenders from volunteering at places of worship should be struck down because it criminalizes religious conduct, a lawyer argued Thursday.
Because of the provision, offenders cannot sing in adult choirs, play the piano during services, attend adult Bible study classes, serve as a pallbearer at a friend’s funeral or give their testimonies to congregations, Atlanta lawyer Gerry Weber told a federal judge.

Georgia is the only state in the nation that makes it a crime for a sex offender to volunteer at a place of worship, Weber, a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights, told U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper.

Lori Sue Collins, a member of the Mount Paran Church of God, said she stopped giving testimonials at churches about the redemptive power of Christ because she is fearful of being prosecuted. Practicing one’s religion goes beyond attending services, she said. “I’m required by my faith the give back,” said Collins, 47, convicted of statutory rape for having sex with a 15-year-old boy in 2002. “Every time I share, I heal more or reach someone."