Friday, March 20, 2009

New York State Residents: ACTION ALERT


On March 17, a bill was reported out of the NYS Assembly Committee on Codes that, if passed, would discard a fundamental principle of American jurisprudence and potentially decimate the health, social service and educational ministries of the Catholic Church and other religious institutions. The bill now goes to the full Assembly, and we need your help to stop it.

The bill, sponsored by Queens Assembly Member Margaret Markey, would open a one-year "window" in the statute of limitations for civil claims of sexual abuse, allowing people to sue the Church and other not-for-profits for events that are 50, 60 or even 70 years old or more, with no limits on jury awards. The bill, however, would not make the necessary changes in the law to allow for new lawsuits against public institutions like public school districts, state hospitals for disabled children or juvenile detention facilities. Incredibly, it creates two classes of victims, based solely on where the abuse occurred.

Please take action today by going to the link above and telling your Assembly member to reject this unfair proposal, which is designed to enrich a small group of trial lawyers at the expense of religious ministries.

Sexual abuse occurs everywhere, and society must root out the abusers and punish them to the fullest extent of the law. Outside the home, public schools are the most frequent place where young people encounter abuse. Because of the inherent unfairness of not amending the law to allow new suits against public institutions, it is clear that this bill is not about justice for victims of sexual abuse. Instead it is a thinly disguised targeting of the Catholic Church and other religious and not-for-profit organizations.

We urge you to support laws to protect your children and grandchildren from child abuse and punish abusers forcefully. But reopening statutes of limitations on decades-old cases for only one group of people is not just or equitable, and will only serve to punish today's parishioners, schoolchildren and those in need of the services of our health care institutions, schools and charities.

There is an alternative to A.2596 which is fair and equitable. This bill, A.5708, introduced by Brooklyn Assembly Member Vito Lopez, provides victims of sexual abuse greater opportunity to seek redress and does not discriminate between classes of victims. A.5708 creates the same standard for ALL victims of sexual abuse and provides a fair and balanced approach. Importantly, A.5708 does NOT have a retroactive window.

Tell your Assembly member to SUPPORT A.5708 (Lopez) and OPPOSE A.2596 (Markey).

To read more about the implications of this bill, and what the Church is doing to protect children and young people, go HERE.

To take action on this bill by sending an e-mail message to your Assembly member, go HERE.
Edited March 23, 2009 to add:
March 12, 2009

Catholic League president Bill Donohue tells of the real-life consequences of what would happen if a bill by New York State Assemblywoman Margaret Markey passed today:

“An 18-year-old who was allegedly raped by a public school teacher the week after Thanksgiving is out of luck—the 90 day clock allowed by law to file a claim for an offense in a public institution is up. But a student who was allegedly raped in a Catholic or Jewish school when JFK was president could bring suit (for one year, there is no time limit on claims affecting private institutions). After a year, a student in a Catholic or Jewish school would still have 3,650 more days to file a claim than a victim from the public schools (the current five year period to file a claim would be expanded to 10 years).

“There is another bill, sponsored by Vito Lopez, that would not discriminate on the basis of location. Eric Schneiderman, chairman of the Senate Codes Committee, says that the glaring disparity might be addressed in future legislation. ‘Just because it [the Markey bill] does not broaden the rights of victims 100 percent does not mean we should not try to broaden their rights somewhat.’ His argument collapses, of course, when considering the Lopez bill: it would cover 100 percent of the victims. It’s time lawmakers like Schneiderman explained why the Markey bill, which promotes discrimination, is a more just outcome than the Lopez bill, which does not.” Source

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