Last week the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a state law banning sex offenders from public parks, overturning a 2017 appeals court ruling that deemed the statute “unconstitutional on its face because it bears no reasonable relationship to protecting the public.” The seven members of the higher court unanimously disagreed, saying, “We conclude that there is a rational relation between protecting the public, particularly children, from sex offenders and prohibiting sex offenders who have been convicted of crimes against minors from being present in public parks across the state.”

In reaching that conclusion, the justices relied on alarming claims about recidivism among sex offenders, even while acknowledging that the claims have been discredited. The decision, written by Justice Mary Jane Theis, shows how fear overrides logic in dealing with sex offenders and how toothless “rational basis” review can be, allowing legislators not only to draw their own judgments but to invent their own facts.

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