Tuesday, May 10, the city of Jacksonville, Florida kicked off the Halloween season early and made some inroads into Thanksgiving and Christmas also. They approved changes in the language of the law that addresses where those designated as sexual offenders and sexual predators may not go and what decorations they cannot display.
According to Action News, Jacksonville, “The law restricts sex offenders from attending events that are primarily targeted toward children who are unrelated to the sex offenders. It also bans sex offenders from displaying decorations that are primarily targeted to attract children.”
The actual language reads, “It is unlawful for any Sexual Offender or Sexual Predator to participate in any practice or event, including, but not limited to, any event related to a nationally or locally recognized holiday or seasonal event, if such practice or event is primarily targeted toward non-familial children.”
According to this, then, registrants may “participate” in a family Thanksgiving dinner or a gift exchange around their own Christmas trees or Hanukkah wreaths, but…
- Taking their own kids trick-or-treating is out as well as letting their kids welcome neighborhood trick or treaters at their homes;
- No Christmas Eve children’s pageant at church; actually, with the “any event” wording, no children’s Sunday School, church, or day school event at all, even ones in which their own kids are participants;
- No taking their kids to the school or neighborhood Halloween carnival;
- Fourth of July in the park is out; heck, the park is probably out;
- They can forget watching their own children in their schools’ Thanksgiving or Winter Holiday programs; the programs target, primarily, non-familial children.
Oh, and there’s more: “A clarification of the ban on Holiday displays by that class of criminals, if such display is primarily targeted to entice, attract, or lure a child onto any residence, or property, or onto or nearer to any vehicle or vessel rented, owned or occupied by such person. Display is defined as any decoration including, but not limited to, lighting, figurines, posters, artwork, crystals, bales of hay, scarecrows, etc. which is visible to the public in plain view and is primarily targeted toward children.”
So…no external decorations; nothing Halloweeny in the yard or the outside of the house, probably not even lights on if they “are visible to the public” through windows on Halloween evening. Certainly no outside Christmas lights nor fake—or real—snowmen in yards. Santa Claus can’t rest on those rooftops. No autumn wreaths on doors. No menorahs in the window on Hanukkah. No giant bunnies at Easter time.
Those would be perceived as primarily targeting children. The only glimmer of hope is the possibility of a registrant challenging the city to prove that his Christmas tree, seen through a window, was primarily intended to lure or entice a child.
It would almost be funny – but it isn’t. It rips at the very fabric of family life for many, many thousands of registrants with children. Special days and events make the memories that help shape children’s lives, and there isn’t a one of us who do not want their children’s memories of childhood’s special occasions to include both mom and dad being there.
These laws and rules destroy those memories, and for no valid purpose. There is not one iota of evidence of any increase in sexual assaults on children by strangers on the registry during Halloween or any other holiday. There is no recorded instance of a registrant putting on a Halloween costume and abducting or molesting a random child. An exhaustive search reveals no cases of children being lured onto the property of strangers by Christmas lights or Thanksgiving decorations or bales of hay with scarecrows on top, only to be seized and molested by someone on the registry.
I am ending this with a question, one asked by a columnist I have long admired and respected, Leonard Pitts, in something he wrote very recently. He was writing about a different topic, but the question he asks is as apropos of this issue as to his subject, and it is one that we are becoming all too adept at answering.
“How many times have you seen laws promulgated to address things that never happen?”
How many times, indeed.