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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.… Read more »

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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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… Read more »


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… Read more »

” 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… Read more »

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