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Of Witches, and Witch Burnings [by Guy Hamilton-Smith]

[ – 8/22/20 – Guy Hamilton-Smith]

Note: this piece is adapted from a forthcoming article in the Southwestern Law Review

Several years ago, a debate raged in my local paper’s opinion section. Should sex offenders be allowed in church?, or something of the like. I wasn’t a churchgoer, but I had a spiritual experience that I didn’t know what to do with. I asked one of my friends in law school who I knew was religious, and who knew my story, if she would take me to hers. She took me.

I went to a service with her, and afterwards, I asked the priest to lunch, so that I could tell him my whole story. So that I could ask if I could attend.

Over burgers and fries at one of those restaurants that doesn’t stay the same thing for more than a year or two, I told him about my conviction, and my spiritual experience, and how I’d like to start attending church. I expected that I was going to leave disappointed.

He looked at me with a “so what?” kind of expression on his face. He seemed annoyed. He kept chewing.

Well, I’m just wondering if you’ll allow me to attend.

Why wouldn’t I?  

Because, I’m a sex offender.

Without missing a beat, you’re no different than anyone else. He then let roar this belly laugh where, improbably, despite the fact that you could hear it from rooms away, he laughed mostly with his eyes. He put me at ease.

Read the full essay


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That did NOT HAPPEN in my Church !!!!
It was the OPPOSITE !!!
Bye …

There are real churches and there are religious places in Christ name only. There is a big difference. Sadly most of them are the latter.

Be quite !!!
And stop responding to everyone, everything !!!
Just learn to LISTEN !!!

I’ll admit I’m jealous. My experience with church has been horrendous. I spent 16 years since my teens serving ministries, people, communities. I’ve help build Christian shops, churches, and apartments for the homeless. I sat daily with the homeless. I spent years helping in a work release program helping offenders get jobs. I walked my parish. I knew everyone. I was there to when they fell from the grace of God. I believed Jesus died for the abusers, not just the abused. He died for sinners. He died for the rapist King David, for the Sex traffickers Abraham and Isaac. He died for the genocidal maniac Paul. Well that was dandy till it was my turn. Me and my wife committed 2 years to a church in N.C. I feel into depression and got a porn addiction, that lead to a possession charge. I admitted my sin and saught treatment(multiple ones) and wanted help. Well the pastor of that church decided to make me confess publicly and than kicked me and my innocent wife out soon after. It broke our hearts. We tried one more church. The pastor and elders knew my sin. They accepted us. A year in a half went by. We gave it our all. Than the paper published my charge and within a week I was banned from coming back. I spent years in repentance. Going to 3 different treatments. Serving God intensely( i secretly always wanted to be a pastor) and doing my best to turn my life around . I felt horrible for what I did. But the church made it worst. The 2nd church had an ex sex trafficker by the way. He never got into legal trouble. He was part of a gang that he left. That was his repentance. He was allowed to serve in daycare. Mine was a non contact offense. The judge ruled no harm to minors, and that I wasn’t a danger to minors. I played it safe and never allowed myself to be alone with kids and always in the public of the church. Well then the local paper published my charges and my church dropped me the same week banning me from all services. The few who said they’d stay by us, dropped us eventually as well. They grilled my wife asking if I had abused her and made really bad accusations against me. The first church encouraged her to leave me. We where broken. She forgave me, her family embraced me, and we have a daughter together. But this was the 2nd church that shunned us. For a past sin I committed and a sin that I own. I try my best not to walk in shame but repentance. Shame leads to death, guilt leads to redemption. But it’s the so called Christians that remind me of shame. We are so alone and isolated. I wish my wife just had one friend… but they all dropped her cause of her affiliation with me. And me I tried to have friends in my recovery but of course my P.O. Won’t let me. We try to make the best of things, but deep down we are miserable, alone, and without community. Why? Because of so called Christians. 16 years of my life I committed to the church with all of its flaws. My one flaw which I asked for help on, and my family was cast out like lepers. I’m a leper.

Yep, that’s how I view churches. A minority of the people there are decent. The rest are often much worse than just the general public. Take a look at their political stances. That’s them. I won’t be worrying about any moral guidance from such.

If you really want to go to a church, you just need to live in a city. Then go wherever you like. I’ve been to lots of different churches. Never discussed anything Registry/sex-related with any of them. Easy peasy.

I will add in that I used to be a very, very community-oriented person before being listed on the Registries Hit List. I volunteered all the time. Gave piles of time, money, and sweat to everyone. Literal blood. As often as possible. But, it only took me a couple of years of being Registered to stop that completely. I haven’t given blood for over 20 years now. And I definitely work hard to never help random people. For example, I don’t give to United Way, Red Cross, or anything like that. I still do more good today than I ever did. But I make sure I know who I am helping. I find specific people. For example, I used to help Habitat for Humanity a lot. Now I do that same type of stuff often enough, but only for friends. I find it extremely easy to find people in need. I don’t need charities to help me do that.

Regarding your isolation … don’t let the scumbags who support Registries steal your life. Fuck those people every day and live better than them. I live better than them and take advantage of them every chance I get. They aren’t going to make my family suffer without worse happening to them. They wanted a war so I’m delivering.

I’d recommend (again) that you live in a large population area. Then find social groups that do things that you and your wife like to do. I found it easy to hang out with any number of people and have great times. It’s even extra better because you all are doing things you all like. I would totally start there. And never, ever discuss your Registration or anything you did in the past. Not to try to “hide” it or whatever. But instead, because it is in your past and none of their business. I don’t ever discuss my Registration with anyone unless it comes up in some way and then the only thing I will say is that it is illegal and immoral. I definitely don’t discuss anything I did with anyone (I mean, there are always exceptions, of course, like perhaps with friends). The Registries are not legitimate and there is no reason to ever pretend like they are.

I have come to realize long ago, that some of the Biggest and Worst Hypocrites, are actually those who “SHOULD” be the first-ones to accept “us” and provide spiritual support, etc (the “Christians”). It infuriates me that they are the “worst-of-the-worst” when it comes to judging others. (and don’t even get me started on my feelings regarding how churches and their properties are “tax-exempt” … at least here in Pennsylvania).
My experience has proven that individuals who DON’T attend church, are more likely to be less judgmental and willing to associate.
I don’t need a church to “believe” and reflect spiritually; and besides, I don’t wanna be around those “religious judgmental hypocrites”. Do you “REALLY” want to put yourself in this position of being around higher-percentage of mostly “2-faced” people ? That’s not the “kind” of people or places I wanna be apart-of;… THAT’S NOT what MY “Beliefs” (being a judgmental hypocrite) are.

***Note: I must mention though that NOT EVERY person who attends church “acts” like this. Their actually are (a FEW) who are decent. I am friends with some….

You don’t need people’s acceptance. They’re going to decide where their loyalty lies and after that good riddance. I believe most Christians are good people being forced by peer pressure to take sides or get cut off. So they give into the mob.

Funny, democracy is such a heralded achievement but is it really? Mob rule is what came out of the George Floyd situation. But mob rule is also responsible for a lot of the ostracism that’s resulted from the registry.

So maybe “democracy” is the real plague here…

I went to my pastor and told him of my status for a few different reasons: wanted to know of he already knew (said he didn’t) considered sending my kids to their well-ranked school and participate in their education, wondered if I was in violation for attending a church which shares its campus with a school and just to get it off my chest.
I told him of my 30+ year old rape conviction. He was unphased and said “it’s not like you molested your 8 year old niece.” This gave me pause; clearly there were lines of forgiveness for this Christian leader.
His attitude toward me did not change and he’s always on me to attend church and bible study, these days through Zoom. I never really get into the church the way I want to and enjoy that fellowship or social outlet. I show up, sing the songs, pray, tithe and split, but I digress…
I’m so sorry for those of you who had a bad experience with their church and I’ll paraphrase a recent comment from someone embroiled in a church sex scandal, it’s too bad so many “Christians” aren’t as forgiving as Christ.

I’ve been never been shunned by a church because of my sex offense; yet because I was young. That’s Florida for you the land of dried out fruit!!

In 2019 I invited Mr. G. Hamilton-Smith to attend my last FTR case here in Rock County, WI.
He turned my down. Too bad cause he would have learned how to win a dismissal by prosecutors motion. Se la vie.

@ confused man

@ Tim in WI
Sorry Guy chose not to, he missed out on valuable experience in that Stae.
Maybe he had prior obligations Tim, sounds like you won?

1 FTR loss since 97 when it began. That jury almost hung. They’ll be back tho because winning FTR doesn’t take you off state database. I’ll be ready!

Thank you for this piece, Guy. I’m generally quite jaded and skeptical of media reports designed to be evocative, but I find this story compelling. I believe it and I find it inspiring.

I get the sense from your story that you attended a relatively liberal (maybe mainline Protestant) congregation. I’ve had a good experience with the pastor of a relatively conservative, although urban, church. I think things really can’t be easily put into boxes, but what probably makes or breaks a registrant’s experience with a church is the leadership of the church, not its politics, not its specific brand of theology.

One takeaway I’m getting from reading about experiences around the country, both related to the registries and otherwise, is that many people really just don’t have the experience to really evaluate people in any meaningful way, whether that’s whether someone is lying, whether someone is a threat, whether someone’s life choices are truly exceptional or not. I’m not sure how you get that experience–good pastors seem to have it via seminar training or, more likely, just having interacted with so many people for so many years. But for many of us, reality is filtered through the media and we really don’t have as much experience interacting with the world as we think, and we end up relying on group think, banal fear, and, despite our better intentions, we turn into misanthropes. Churches can help with this tendency, regardless of where you are in life, spiritually. God knows I have no idea where I’m at–I let my wife take spiritual leadership in my family, as I personally have little faith. But this piece you wrote Guy, it really affected me. Thank you.

When I was released from prison on supervised release, I had the strong desire to go to church. I gave my life back to Christ in prison. Under the rules of probation, I needed to get permission from the pastor. I called and made an appointment at the largest church in this area whom I had heard the teaching before of the pastor. He was an EXCELLENT bible teacher.

During the meeting he was very kind and heard my testimony. I laid it all on the line and was totally truthful of what I had done. When I was finished he smiled and simply said, “So, I’ll see you this Sunday?” He told me that through the salvation of Christ that the past is the past and we all have fallen short of the glory of God. He reminded me that King David committed adultery then murder to cover it up. The apostle Paul (who wrote much of the NT texts) had hunted down, arrested, jailed, and even supported the killings of many Christians before his conversion. He said everyone is granted forgiveness without condition for the asking.

He did ask me to stay away from the childrens section of the church building, but other than that, I was free to attend any service, class or function that the church offers. Within 6 months I was a full time usher during my service. Then 3 years ago the church awarded me with a sizable scholarship to attend a local 4 year bible college to work on a Christian Psychology degree.

I question the biblical foundation of ANY church that denies a former SO from attending. One read through the bible and a case study of almost every person of note that was used extensively by God to further the kingdom would show that they ALL had issues, sins, and even crimes in their past.

I have been attending the same church for 7 years now and have NEVER had one single issue. Many know my past (all the staff that I work closely with do) and no one has ever treated me any differently. I also know that there are more than a handful of ex felons attending, many who are SO’s.

God loves to use the least of us to do the most for him.


This has been a rough week for me. Can’t put my finger on it. Probably all that’s going on. But I’m just tired and down, and I feel like I could sleep all weekend long if I wanted to. Reading what you wrote here was an absolute blessing for me. Thank you for sharing this testimony! You are blessed to have this church family, AND they are blessed to have you! God Bless You, brother!

@Jay WOW, PTL, that’s not just Good News fhis GREAT NEWS! Congrats to you & the other RC’s that continue to Ttend and feel welcomed @ a home body if Christ Church. Jay hooe you complete the degreed program too! JAY We the s o from the community NO LONGER use or word s.o. at least in CA here utilize R.C. (Registered Citizen) now.
Good to hear, glad you wrote this.

Any religious organization that bans anyone including people forced to register should lose their tax exempt status and invest in mirrors. To many hypocrites in places where all should be welcome and not shunned.

I like churches that don’t require you to believe in god. That’s why the Unitarian Universalist Church would be the only one I would consider, were any in consideration.

I also do know, from a friend who wanted to join them and who is a registrant and, at that time, on parole, did let him in after discussion with the leader although I believe there were some stipulations about events with kids.

See this is where people don’t get it though. Kids. Sex offenders who turn their life around often have kids and family. To ban a person from his child’s event is a separation of family in my book. To quote “what God has unionized let no man serperate. Churches can’t figure out how to accept a sex offender in general. They sure as hell don’t know what to do with a sex offender who’s married and has kids. They just do what the american culture is doing. Which causes 2nd victims. The children. The rules and laws they create based on false facts, leads to the separation of parental figures and support for children. It’s one thing that the state does this… It’s horrible that churches do this… Christ said do not hinder the little children. They sat amongst the crowd of sinners. They weren’t separate from their parents because of their parents past sins that the parents repented for. In my area. this is not a county law but what multiple local churches have told me’ A sex offender can only attend services where children aren’t present. I refuse to let a church separate me from my child when it comes to raising my kid in a Godly home.

” We all fear the darkness within ourselves.” Sam Loomis aka Donald Plesance Halloween 2 1981

Sad a fictional character has more sense than real people.

Went to church today and the pastor said, “When he was younger he always used the love the sinner hate the sin when people would speak about their story. After people would hear that they would tell him what that message means to them: you love me, but you reject me. Now he cringes Of love the sinner hate the sin and says it should be love the person period.” That’s the way it should be because none of us are perfect and if you believe in God you should be an ambassador of his at all times even when it’s not popular in our culture.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x