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First Lawsuit Filed Using New Religious Freedom Law


Indiana’s religious freedom law known as RFRA will be used for the first time in a suit challenging a new state law that bars sex offenders from churches.

A new law that went into effect Wednesday says people convicted of sex offenses against children cannot enter school property.  And ACLU-Indiana legal director Ken Falk says because that phrase “school property” is broadly written, it could mean that offenders can’t attend religious services if the church is next to a school. 

Falk says the RFRA standard says government cannot infringe on a person’s religious practice unless it has a compelling interest and does so in the least restrictive way.

“And there’s simply no interest that justifies, for example, not allowing someone to go to church at ten o’clock on Sunday because at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday there may be children in a building that’s not even attached to the church,” Falk said. “That just doesn’t make any sense.”

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of two unnamed sex offenders from northeast Indiana, was filed in Elkhart County Court Thursday. 

In a statement, the Attorney General’s office affirmed its duty to defend state statutes and says the state will respond to the lawsuit in court.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.