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Sex offender arrested for going to church

Posted October 8, 2009

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— A registered sex offender is challenging a law that got him arrested for going to a Baptist Church in Chatham County.

James Nichols, 31, was twice convicted of indecent liberties with a teen girl and again in 2003 for attempted second-degree rape. He served six years and two months in prison and was released in September 2008.

Nichols said he found God in prison, and when he was released last year he found Moncure Baptist Church, 75 Davenport Road in Moncure.

Sex offender arrested for going to church Sex offender challenges state law

“God is the one that helps me progress to be a better citizen,” Nichols said. “He was open, giving me a second chance.”

But the church has a nursery. Moncure is also a place where minors gather for regularly scheduled programs.

Under a state law passed last December, sex offenders are barred from coming within 300 feet of any place intended for the use, care or supervision of children.

On March 28, Chatham County deputies arrested Nichols at his home after he attended Sunday services.

“I cried. It hurt me so bad because that (is) the only thing I found in this world that gives me hope,” Nichols said.

Nichols said he was devastated after being arrested. "I was constantly around adults. I was never left alone with minors at all," he said.

He said the pastor at Moncure Baptist Church welcomed him with open arms. “And he was open, giving me a second chance, giving me an opportunity to better myself, and getting to know God,” he said.

Nichols spent a month and a half in jail, then went to Sanford and joined Try Jesus Ministries. The church has no day care, but he faced another issue.

People complained to authorities that Nichols and his pregnant fiancée were living in a tent in an abandoned building. Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said Nichols needs a legitimate address.

“For me to okay a sex offender living on private property, I’m just not comfortable with that,” Carter said.

On Sept. 8, Nichols went to Fayetteville and now lives at the New Life Mission Church, 303 Maloney Ave. His attorney has filed a motion to declare the law that banned him from Moncure Baptist unconstitutional.

“That’s all I’m trying to do is be a better person,” Nichols said.

Thirty-six states establish zones where sex offenders cannot live or visit. Some states provide exceptions for churches but many do not.

In Georgia, the Southern Center for Human Rights has sued the state in part because the law there prevents offenders from volunteering in places of worship. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of Georgia's 16,000-plus registered sex offenders, is pending in federal court.

31 Comments

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  • roncorey1 Oct 9, 2009

    Everybody is gonna dig up the dirt on this guy just like they did with the woman over in Wilkes County who was told to leave the community college she was enrolled in due to her sex offender status. But the fact remains that these "laws" were not well thought out, ineffective at "protecting" anybody, and, in the end, are probably unconstitutional.

    And if you think about it, this is just more media driven hype and hysteria that makes people think that there is some new and growing problem with "sex offenders".

  • Lucky_Granny Oct 9, 2009

    This guy was released early in Dec 2007. He didn't follow the terms of his release and went back to jail for 9 months. Also if you check just going to church wasn't the only thing he was arrested for. It appears that someone was babysitting a child in his home. Hmmmmmmm. I'm all for letting people make fresh starts but looks like he has a habit of it.

  • roncorey1 Oct 9, 2009

    Good for him. These so called "laws" need to be challenged. They do little to nothing to actually prevent sexual assault and abuse and are just political grandstanding on an issue that the lawmakers in Raleigh know little about.

    Most sexual abuse of children occurs in the home by someone the child knows. This is a fact.

    And when was the last time anyone heard about a sexual assault on Sunday morning during church services?

  • CowboysFan Oct 9, 2009

    maybe he should become a minister, and start up a church of his own for others like him. do you realize that he could have been 18 and the girl 15 or 16 and the parents found out and they didn't want her to be with him, so they pressed charges?

  • andyhilton3 Oct 9, 2009

    His convection had to do with a teenage. What does this have to do with a nursery? Also was the teenage 13 or 17? I think if there is going to be a sex offender registry then there should be one for kids 0-12, one for teens 13-17 and one for adults because there is a difference. I take much more offense to someone who has relations with a 8 year old than someone who has relations with a 17 year old.

  • Not Now Oct 9, 2009

    And no one has any comments about his pregnant fiance?

  • Lab mom Oct 9, 2009

    westoflyra: So are you saying you would be 100 percent comfortable with this guy in your church around children?? Didn't say I didn't forgive just don't want people like this near my child. There is a diffrence. Hey, why not start a sex offenders church!! Seriously, they can all worship together.

  • Tarheelfan13 Oct 9, 2009

    Here is another observation. Why is it that 15-20 years ago that child sex offenses or sex offenses in general(outside of 1st degree rape maybe) where not a major issue of primary importance in the legislative bodies of our nation or the media in general? My opinion is that with the advent of the internet and child sex offenses that are connected to the internet that it has become the latest emotionally charged politically correct fad issue in our legislative bodies. The fact is that child sex offenders were just as much a problem 15-20 years ago as they are today. The problem today is that we make up law after law to address the issue when just enforcing the existing laws on the books to the fullest and maximum extent would solve a lot of the problem IMHO.

  • didisaythat Oct 9, 2009

    For the people who think this list goes too far. Spend some time with a detective that investigates these type crimes....You will want even strickter rules and regulations after. People still defend this person and he has multiple acts that put him on the registry. While it would be nice to look at each case seperately, it can not be done. Yes, the actual crime can, but the punishment can not. So you get people that is punished more than others. That is a price you have to pay. The laws are for the majority not just for one or a few.

  • Tarheelfan13 Oct 9, 2009

    StefanyJoy, I have nothing against offender registry lists and frankly I think sex offenders (especially child sex offenders) should get very lengthy prison terms. So I am not against harsh prison length punishment for sex offenders. But if we are to live in a free society that believes in equality for the law than we need to rethink a lot of these emotionally politically correct laws that double punish offenders after having paid their debt to society. I am not disturbed but I am telling it like it is. There is an old saying that the road to hades is paved with good intentions. Next thing you know another type of less serious crime may end up with lifetime ramifications. And honestly some of these sex offender laws could be considered ex post facto laws in reference to some offenders which is technically illegal Constitutional wise in this nation.

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