Sex Offender Asks N.H. High Court to OK Church Attendance

A sex offender in New Hampshire who spent seven years in prison for his crimes is asking the state's supreme court to grant him permission to attend a church with a chaperone.

Jonathan Perfetto, 35, had pleaded guilty in 2002 to 61 counts of child pornography possession, and was released in October 2008 after maxing out his three-to-seven-year prison sentence.

Under his probation condition, Perfetto is to have no contact with children.

Despite his fear of reoffending, Perfetto is seeking permission to attend services at a church in Manchester with a church elder acting as a chaperone.

The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union and Perfetto maintain the chaperone would eliminate any risk to children.

Despite the assurance, Perfetto's request was denied by a lower court and is now heading over to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which is being asked for the first time to rule on whether a probation condition that effectively bars church attendance violates a person's constitutional rights to religious freedom.

Currently 36 states have established zones where sex offenders cannot live or visit, and some provide exceptions for churches. Many, however, do not.

In New Hampshire, the state says public safety trumps Perfetto's religious rights.