Tag Archives: worship

Dylann Roof sentenced to death

A jury on Jan. 10 condemned white supremacist Dylann Roof to death for the hate-fueled killings of nine black parishioners at a Bible study meeting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015.

The same jury last month found Roof, 22, guilty of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, for the shootings at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours.

Roof stared straight ahead as the judge read through the jury’s verdict findings before announcing his death sentence, local media reported on social media.

Roof, who represented himself for the penalty phase, was unrepentant during his closing argument earlier in the day. He told jurors he still felt the massacre was something he had to do and did not ask that his life be spared.

“Today’s sentencing decision means that this case will not be over for a very long time,” Roof’s lawyers, who represented him for the guilt phase, said in a statement after the verdict was announced.

Roof still faces a trial on murder charges in state court, where prosecutors also are seeking the death penalty.

Attorney general statement on the sentencing

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released the following statement on the sentencing of Dylann Roof:

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Storm Roof sought out and opened fire on African-American parishioners engaged in worship and bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

He did so because of their race.  And he did so to interfere with their peaceful exercise of religion.

The victims in the case led lives as compassionate civic and religious leaders; devoted public servants and teachers; and beloved family members and friends.  They include a young man in the bloom of youth and an 87-year-old grandmother who still sang in the church choir.

We remember those who have suffered, and especially those that lost their lives: Cynthia Graham Hurd, 54;

Susie Jackson, 87;

Ethel Lance, 70;

Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49;

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41;

Tywanza Sanders, 26;

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74;

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45;

and Myra Thompson, 59.

Today, a jury of his peers considered the actions Roof took on that fateful day, and they rendered a verdict that will hold him accountable for his choices.

No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel.

And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof’s callous hand.  But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston — and the people of our nation — with a measure of closure.

We thank the jurors for their service, the people of Charleston for their strength and support, and the law enforcement community in South Carolina and throughout the country for their vital work on this case.


Sex offenders sue, make use of Indiana’s ‘religious objections’ law

A lawsuit filed on behalf of two registered sex offenders cites Indiana’s new religious objections law in arguing they’ve been wrongly prohibited from worshipping at churches that have schools on the same property.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit on behalf of two unnamed sex offenders, one of whom belongs to a Fort Wayne church and another who has attended an Elkhart church.

The lawsuit claims that a new state law banning many sex offenders from going onto school property at any time presents an unjustified burden on the men’s religious liberties under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana’s legal director, called the additional sex offender restrictions absurd.

“The Legislature passes a law which says sex offenders cannot go into schools and it is being applied to people who are going to church or other religious observances during a time that there’s no school in session,” Falk said. “The law prohibits them from walking on that property — it’s a felony to do so.”

The religious objections law and the tougher sex offender restrictions both took effect on July 1. The lawsuit said both men have regularly attended Sunday services and other events at their churches, but now fear being arrested if they do so.

The ban on sex offenders going onto school property gained little attention as it sailed through the state Legislature this year – clearing both the House and Senate without any votes cast against it.

A national outcry erupted after Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed the religious objections law in late March, with critics saying it would provide a legal defense for discrimination against gays, lesbians and others. It prohibits any government actions that would “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs.

Douglas Laycock, a constitutional scholar at the University of Virginia Law School who helped win passage of the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, said he believes the ACLU lawsuit has merit and that making it a crime to attend church services is a major burden on a person’s religious practices.

“If you have any hope of rehabilitation, religion works for some people. Telling them they can’t go to church doesn’t make much sense,” said Laycock, the lead writer of an analysis supporting the Indiana religious objections law. The analysis was frequently cited by the bill’s sponsors.

Laycock said he’s not aware of similar cases involving religious objections laws in the 19 other states with similar statutes.

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long issued a statement blasting the ACLU of Indiana’s filing of the lawsuit after the group opposed the religious objections law as it was debated in the General Assembly.

“The ACLU used to be a staunch supporter of religious liberty,” said Long, a Republican. “Now they’ve reduced themselves to making a mockery of it. On top of this, they also support endangering our children while championing the rights of sex offenders. It’s a sad day for the ACLU.”

The lawsuit, filed in Elkhart County Superior Court, names the prosecutors and sheriffs of Allen and Elkhart counties as defendants. Neither prosecutor’s office had immediate comment Thursday on the lawsuit.

Falk said the lawsuit is serious and that the group has long worked to protect the right to worship.

“Regardless of what we said about the law, it is the law now,” he said. “This is a very conservative use of the law.”