Thursday, January 04, 2018

Parole Condition Barring Church Attendance Is Enjoined

In Manning v. Powers, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 213749 (CD CA, Dec. 13, 2017), a California federal district court granted a preliminary injunction banning the government from enforcing two parole conditions imposed on Sherman Manning, a Baptist minister who had served 25 years in prison for sexual assaults on teenage boys.  One of the challenged conditions prohibited Manning from entering places where children congregate.  Authorities had interpreted that to prohibit him from entering any church.  In invalidating that broad prohibition, the court said in part:
To withstand constitutional scrutiny, a prohibition that is not neutral or generally applicable must advance "only those interests of the highest order," and be narrowly tailored to serve those state interests.... That criteria is not met here. Although public safety is a compelling state interest, the court finds that a blanket restriction on Manning's churchgoing is not narrowly tailored to suit this interest. None of Manning's convictions have any connection to churches or religious activity.... Additionally, the alleged prohibition is overbroad in that it may reach even church events at which no children, or very few children, are ever present. Therefore, the court concludes that an interpretation of SCP 18 that imposes a blanket prohibition on churchgoing is likely to result in a violation of the Free Exercise Clause.