- Associated Press - Sunday, March 8, 2015

ROBBINSVILLE, N.C. (AP) - A North Carolina sheriff has written sex offenders in his county saying they may not attend church services because state law requires them to stay away from day care centers and schools.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports (https://avlne.ws/1EnrhSXa ) it acquired a copy of the Feb. 17 letter written by Graham County Sheriff Danny Millsaps. The county on the Tennessee line has 9,000 residents and 20 registered sex offenders.

The sheriff later told the newspaper he made a mistake wording the letter.

“This is an effort to protect the citizens and children of the community of Graham (County),” the sheriff wrote in the letter. “I cannot let one sex offender go to church and not let all registered sex offenders go to church.”“

The letter invited sex offenders to attend services at the county jail.



“I understand I can’t keep them from going to church,” the sheriff later told the newspaper. “That may have been misunderstood. I’ll be the first one to say I might have made mistakes in the wording of that letter.”

He said he understands the Constitution gives everyone the right to religious freedom.

He said he stands by his take on the state law blocking offenders from places where children are present but has no immediate plans to arrest a sex offender should one attend church.

It’s not the first time the issue has come up in North Carolina

Chatham County deputies arrested a sex offender for attending church in 2009. But a judge later ruled the state law as applied to churches was unconstitutional.

Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan says sex offenders can attend church in the county as long as pastors know and are in agreement.

He said generally church leaders want to minister to sex offenders.

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