For registered sex offenders in Southern California, Halloween is pretty much the worst holiday on the calendar, since it serves as a potent reminder to their neighbors that they can never, ever, under any circumstances participate in the ritual candy canvassing that makes Halloween simultaneously so magical and so menacing. A group of registered sex offenders in Simi Valley, however, is hoping to ease some of the restrictions that the community has placed on their Halloween activities, most notably a law that prohibits convicted sex offenders from putting up Halloween decorations and outdoor lighting on their homes.
Sex offenders listed on the Megan's Law website are also required to put signs on their front doors (with letters at least an inch tall) proclaiming, "No candy or treats at this residence." A little less than a month after Simi City approved the new restrictions on sex offenders' ability to get into the Halloween spirit, a group of five registered sex offenders, three of their wives, and two of their children represented by attorney Janice Bellucci have sued the city, arguing that the sign and decorative restrictions violate their First Amendment rights. City officials have argued that the restrictions, closely modeled on similar restrictions in other SoCal communities such as Riverside County and the city of Orange, were preemptive, since none of the 119 registered Simi Valley sex offenders (67 of which have been convicted of very serious crimes) has been party to crimes involving children on Halloween, according to police. What's more, Simi Valley has no records of any such crime involving children occurring in the city during the annual Halloween perambulation.
Bellucci, the head of an advocacy group called California Reform Our Sex Offender Laws, filed suit on Friday (her clients have not been named) and says that there hasn't yet been a similar lawsuit in California. She also said that, of all the restrictions, her clients were most dismayed by the requirement that they adorn their houses with a sign, describing such it as "branding." She added, "We can think of what happened in Nazi Germany, where Jews had to appear in public wearing yellow stars."
Hrrrmm. The plight of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany and the inability of sex offenders in Southern California to put jack-o-lanterns on their doorsteps to ward off the pumpkin monster from Trick ‘R Treat are two very, very, VERY different things. Halloween is scary enough without kids accidentally trick-or-treating at a sex offender's pleasantly decorated home, but Bellucci has a (small) point. Lumping all sex offenders into a single group of detestable humans and preventing them from doing something as trivial as stuffing fake cobwebs in their hedges sounds like the sort of measure middling local politicians pass to pad their resumes and prove to their communities that they're "tough on crime." It's low-hanging fruit. Then again, strewing dime store crap all over one's lawn doesn't seem like a right the framers of our Constitution were hoping to protect when they scribbled all that nonsense about liberty.
Image via JeniFoto/Shutterstock.