Agudah Follows the Romans For the Same Dirty Reasons

Zweibel and Cardinal

David Zweibel of Agudah and Cardinal Dolan

Only two important groups stand in the way of strengthening legislation against child sex abusers in New York State: the Roman Catholic Church and its pipsqueak partner, Agudath Israel of America (aka Agudah).

Both groups decry sexual immorality, preach protection of the weak, and rhapsodize about their children. Yet they both have long, ugly histories of helping their molesters escape prosecution and financial reparations.

In 2010, Governor Andrew Cuomo badly wanted to legalize gay marriage in NYS. As always, the obstacle was the lobbying of the RCC and Agudah. So he cut a deal with them. They would denounce the act but not pressure legislators. In return they got his off-the-record promise not to extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse. Instead, NYS would continue to have one of the shortest SOL’s in the US, requiring survivors to file criminal and civil complaints before their 23rd birthday.

Most survivors need more time before they are ready to confront their own demons and take on their abusers. He also protected them from what they feared, a window allowing survivors to sue for abuse that happened before the SOL’s were changed. Such windows expose abusers and force culpable individuals and institutions to compensate victims. They are embarrassing and costly for institutions that long covered up abuse, such as yeshivas, camps (e.g., Camp Agudah), and the RCC.

That deal has stuck. Every year since then, SOL reform legislation gets passed in the NYS Assembly and dies in the NYS Senate. Last year Cuomo promised to get such legislation passed. But it again died in the legislature. When Cuomo really wants something, it gets passed.

It seems to be happening again this year. A bill passed by an overwhelming margin in the Assembly and various SOL extensions are proposed by senators, but none seems likely to succeed. All sorts of spurious arguments are offered. The RCC and Agudah insist it would cost too much to comply and would bankrupt their institutions. As Marci Hamilton points out, the only bankruptcies were engineered by Catholic dioceses to shield assets. I have no doubt, that if a window is opened for suing for abuse in the past, some yeshivas and camps will also try to go down that route. Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz in fact floats the idea of exempting institutions with new management. He conveniently ignores how easy it is to change the formal management while leaving the same players and beneficiaries behind the scenes.

If you are upset about all this, contact Governor Cuomo and your NYS senators and let the know this is your big issue. Unless they are committed to get an SOL reform passed, let them know you will vote against them in the primaries and elections if they fail this test. Act now because there is only about a week before the legislature goes into recess on June 23.

Governor Andrew Cuomo:

HOW TO CONTACT YOUR NYS SENATOR: If you don’t know who your senator is, go here to find out. But don’t waste your time on a written message if you can spare 5-10 minutes to call. That has much more impact. So now go to this site to find your senator by name. Click on their name, then on their contact tab. They will list their offices and their phone numbers. For good measure, call all their offices. Then get ten of your friends and family to do the same. There is only one thing certain about 99% of politicians. They want to get reelected. Let’s make them earn it.


2 thoughts on “Agudah Follows the Romans For the Same Dirty Reasons

  1. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. My story, nor any of the other hundreds that have been in the media, recently, have made any dent in Senate Republican’s intransigence. They claim to have compassion for the victims and discussing ways to find justice for victims. But their loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America and other institutions clearly outweigh it.

    They do not like the “look back window”, which offers adult child sexual abuse survivors an opportunity, for a period of one year, to hold their abusers accountable. They want to prevent doing damage to reputations by fraudulent claims. They fear charitable works will suffer because financial resources will be used to pay out large awards. And they predict the court system will be crippled due to an avalanche of new filings. However, the experiences of states where reforms with “look back windows”, including California, Delaware, Minnesota, Hawaii, Illinois and Florida, have actually been enacted prove them unfounded rationales.

    The lawmakers blocking the Child Victims Act in New York are fully aware that not one of the above catastrophic predictions has come to pass. Virtually no false claims have been reported by the courts. No charitable services discontinued due to money being siphoned away by awards to survivors. No avalanches of claims have clogged or had any adverse impact on the functioning of the courts. Many states have had such success identifying predators that were still at large abusing children that they extended these windows after they expired.

    What then is the real reason for standing in the way of this legislation. Fear that the private records of the institutions will be exposed in a court proceeding. When they deal with individual victims in isolation from others, they assure their secrets are safe. If a case get to court, however, how they swept reports under the rug and moved predators endangering more children, often for decades, becomes public knowledge.

    The hold these institutions have over Senate Republicans should frighten the voters of NY State. For 11 years this battle has been fought. But David is getting stronger and Goliath is losing credibility rapidly. There is only one ultimate ending possible. The Senate in NY State needs to decide when they are going to give up, because we never will.
    Brian R Toale

    • Thank you for your your well-reasoned and informed comment. I completely agree, especially regarding the institutional desire to conceal their past. It exposes them as hypocrites who preached compassion and sexual morality while tolerating abuse and abusers.

      And then there is also the financial liability.

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