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.


Both Party Platforms Gave Short Shrift to Child Sexual Abuse

Marci V Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton

Professor Marci Hamilton reviewed the Democratic and Republican party platforms and found them lacking on child sex abuse. Neither of them addressed the issue comprehensively.

Instead they both focused on those prosecutor favorites, sex trafficking and child pornography. While these are important problems, they are only a tiny fraction of all child sex abuse which is estimated to affect 20% to 25% of all children.

It would be decent and it would be politically smart for both parties to address this issue. she proposes the following platform language: Continue reading

2014 in Review: The Ups and Downs of Child Protection

Professor Marci A. Hamilton Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Professor Marci A. Hamilton
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Professor Marci Hamilton (Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law) just posted her annual review. It covers a range of topics including law, policy, legislation, scandals, awareness within different religious groups and more. She also spans the continents. Check it out.

In her review of  Statutes of Limitation (SOL) she writes:

This is a true case of some states moving forward, while a handful like New York are stuck in antiquated laws that only help perpetrators and institutions that cover up for them. New York yet again stayed firmly mired in the five worst states in the country for victims’ access to justice. The Republican senate has failed to act, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ignored the issue. Continue reading

Professor Marci Hamilton Gives YU Abuse Report a Failing Grade

YU Pres. Richard Joel &  Pres. Emeritus Norman Lamm

YU Pres. Richard Joel &
Pres. Emeritus Norman Lamm

When Yeshiva University (YU) first promised a report on sex abuse in its high school, Cardoza School of Law Professor Marci A. Hamilton gave them the benefit of the doubt. They promised an open report on par with those of their peer institutions and that seemed good enough to her. Professor Hamilton’s opinions matter because she is a nationally recognized authority on child sexual abuse, particularly when it involves church-state relations. Now that the YU report is out, Hamilton has given it a failing grade and red penciled it from beginning to end.

She delivered the verdict in with a September 5th article, “Sullivan & Cromwell and Yeshiva University Issue a Disappointing Report on Child Sex Abuse That Is Short on Facts and Long on Public Relations.” She spares little in her detailed, legally focused analysis. After providing some context she gets to the heart of the matter.

It [the YU Report] provides a four-paragraph (that is not a misprint) summary of “Findings.”  Readers are told that “multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse took place at YUHSB [and at other schools comprising the University] during the relevant time period. . . including, in some instances, after members of the administration had been made aware of such conduct.”  This is little more than a continuation of the cover-up that apparently already occurred

Hamilton shoots down the argument that pending litigation is preventing YU Continue reading

QOTD: Institutions Exaggerate the Impact of SOL Extensions

In a copy of her testimony, provided to the Forward ahead of the hearing, [Yeshiva University Professor of Law, Marci V.] Hamilton said civil litigation in the United States has led to only two bankruptcies, both voluntary and intended “to protect assets and avoid trials that would have revealed the Roman Catholic bishop’s secrets regarding their role in endangering children.” Continue reading