No Halloween for sex offenders

A California community has banned them from celebrating the kid-friendly holiday. Is it constitutional?

Published October 12, 2010 3:36PM (EDT)

Halloween may be a time when we delight in scaring ourselves, but a California county has taken extra measures to keep one particular bogeyman away: sex offenders. They can forget the fake cobwebs, toothy pumpkins and bags of candy -- because the Tulare County Board of Supervisors has passed a new measure banning sex offenders from decorating for Halloween or answering the door for trick-or-treaters.

The impulse is certainly understandable. Every October brings TV news stories about the potential for poisoned candy, razor apples and other frights that feel a little too real. Sex offenders are the clearest bad guys we have. They are just the kind of person we imagine would hurt a child -- because, of course, they have. Other states and counties have successfully enacted similar laws: Since 2005, Maryland has required sex offenders to post a sign reading "No candy at this residence" on Halloween.

However, in this case, Public Defender Michael Sheltzer has raised concerns about the legality of the bill under state law and the First Amendment. After all, these people have served their time and, thanks to Megan's Law, concerned parents can already identify which houses to avoid on their trick-or-treating route. These regulations may go a long way toward putting parents at ease -- but is it necessary or fair?

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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