CINCINNATI (CN) – A Jehovah’s Witness who was convicted of felony attempted sexual abuse has sued the State of Ohio, claiming it unconstitutionally prohibits him from practicing his religion by proselytizing door-to-door more than once a month.
Lawrence Bullard says he should be allowed to proselytize door-to-door twice a week with other Witnesses, as their religion requires. He says he’s an exceedingly low risk to re-offend, and the circumstances prove it.
Bullard says that in the incident that got him in trouble, he reported himself to police and waited for them to come arrest him after he argued with his fiancée. He was still a virgin when he was arrested and pleaded guilty to the Class E felony in New York, he says.
Bullard says he became engaged to another Jehovah’s Witness in 1999. “Unfortunately, their relationship was a rocky one,” he says in his federal complaint. They “argued frequently and broke up on numerous occasions.” He says it was the first “serious relationship” he had ever had.
“On or about Dec. 16, 2001, after another break up, Lawrence went over to [his former fiancée’s] house. He was angry at her, upset and confused. He let himself in when she was not home and hid in her closet waiting for her to come home.”
When she arrived, he says, he “confronted her. And they argued. At some point, he forcibly kissed her and fell to the floor on top of her. He then put his hands down her pants, touching her pubic area.”
He says he “immediately realized that he made a serious mistake, in violation of both his faith and the law.” He says he called the police from the lobby of his ex’s apartment building, and waited there until they arrested him.
After pleading guilty to the class E felony, Bullard says he was classified as a low risk, and sentenced to 10 years of probation and ordered to register as a sex offender.
In 2008, “because of his trouble-free adjustment to probation, he says, he “was placed on non-reporting status.”
Bullard, 37, says he has been married for 4 years. He says his religious practice of going door-to-door twice a week with Witnesses made him well-suited for a job in sales, which he eventually found with a roofing company.
But when his parole officer in Ohio found out about his religious practices and his job as a door-to-door salesman, Bullard says, she forbade it.
She asked him to sign a document agreeing not to go door to door, but he refused, citing his religion. Ohio then “requested a warrant for his arrest from New York.”
He says the request was ultimately withdrawn, and the Ohio Department of Parole allowed him to proselytize once a month. Bullard says his religion requires him to do it twice a week, and that he’s no risk because he will be accompanied by other Witnesses.
He seeks a restraining order and injunction. He is represented by David Singleton with the Ohio Justice & Policy Center.
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