North Carolina sheriff bans sex offenders from churches -- tells them to go pray in jail
Praying in jail (Shutterstock)

A North Carolina county sheriff has banned registered sex offenders from attending church services, the Citizen-Times' Jon Ostendorff reports.

Citing a state law that prohibits sex offenders from being "within 300 feet of premises where minors are supervised," Graham County Sheriff Danny Millsaps sent a letter to all registered offenders last month in which he wrote that "[t]his is an effort to protect the citizens and children of the community. I cannot let one sex offender go to church and not let all the registered sex offenders go to church."

He did, however, offer a suggestion as to where registered sex offenders could worship -- the Graham County Jail.

"You are welcome to come to the Graham [County] Jail on Sunday to attend church services," he wrote. "I know this may upset some of you, [so] if you have any questions I will be more than happy to talk to you about this matter[.]"

The legality of his directive is uncertain -- not even the sheriff himself knows whether it is constitutional.

After acknowledging that everyone has the right to religious freedom, he told the Citizen-Times that "I understand I can't keep them from going to church. That may have been misunderstood. I'll be the first one to say I might have made mistakes in the wording of that letter."

Graham County Manager Greg Cable echoed the sheriff's uncertainty, saying that he asked the county attorney to look into the matter.