New York lawmakers last week closed their 2017 session in “legislative hell,” as one Senator called it, without resolving a number of important issues, including the Child Victims Act, which would reform New York’s antiquated child sex abuse statutes of limitations (SOLs). It would extend the civil and criminal SOLs, revive expired civil SOLs for one year, and eliminate the “notice of claim” requirement that has hobbled public school victims’ access to justice. Read more
In this era of a White House that seems impervious to the concept of accountability, you might well think this column will be about President Donald Trump. That is a tempting topic to be sure given the constitutional Framers’ baseline belief in the fallibility of humans and the tendency to abuse power in light of Trump’s uncontrollable urge to turn every moment into a moment of self-adulation. But this column is about a more absolute power exercised in a corrupt way.
Have you seen The Keepers on Netflix yet? If not, sit down and binge-watch all seven episodes, Read more
The latest sex abuse scandal in the headlines paints USA Gymnastics in as bad a light as you can imagine. Indeed, it is so bad the successful president of the organization, Steven Penny had to resign. This scandal, amidst a series of other sports scandals, has pushed the U.S. Olympic Committee to create a new board to investigate claims of sex abuse, SafeSport, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, with bipartisan support, to introduce the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act. The latter mandates that anyone who suspects abuse in a National Governing Body (NGB) of an Olympic sport must report the suspected abuse to the authorities, extends the statute of limitations for civil suits against perpetrators, bans one-on-one time between coaches and athletes, and imposes other specific requirements on NGBs. Read more
The headlines on child sex abuse have been dominated for years by issues from the Catholic Church, culminating with last year’s Oscar-winning movie, Spotlight. There have been other scandals, of course, like Penn State, the New England boarding schools, and the polygamist sects, among many, but the Catholic cases and issues have continually rolled into the headlines. The latest is that the Manhattan Archdiocese in New York is partially covering the cost of sex abuse claims there by getting a mortgage of $100 million on hotel property that it owns.
I am the last person to say that the Read more
Much has been written about the draft religious liberty executive order that was leaked. The order is so transparently anti-LGBTQ, anti-same sex marriage, and anti-abortion, it is easy to assume these familiar issues exhaust its reach. But its reach, just like the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), goes well beyond anything the religious right that obviously drafted this order either understands or, I hope, intends.
Although these hot-button issues are front and center in its crafting, historic timing, and language, its coverage is not limited to specific beliefs as it Read more
There was widespread and well-deserved derision when a photo circulated of Vice President Mike Pence with dozens of Republican men from the far right “Freedom Caucus” at the White House last week as they discussed elimination of the ten essential (as in mandatory) health benefits for insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. Why? Because one of the ten essential benefits is maternity care. It would have taken only one mother in that room to ridicule these men engineering a return to the good old days when maternity coverage was not always included in coverage and a woman could be denied maternity coverage after she became pregnant because it was a “pre-existing condition.”
Yet women are not the only population seriously threatened in this picture. Children are especially at risk, because both maternity, as in pre-birth care, “newborn care” and “pediatric services, including oral and vision care” are essential health benefits as well. Read more
Children in the United States are routinely sacrificed on the pyre of their parents’ faith by pandering politicians without a moral compass. Children don’t vote but insular religious communities often vote as a bloc mandated by the male officials at the top, and that fact is not lost on power-hungry politicians like those in Utah who let the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) patriarchs marry off girls and abandon boys so that the men will have a better place in heaven. The same relationship between elected officials and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities exists: there are known risks to children but these politicians look the other way as they are feted by the rabbis and a community that keeps children at risk. Read more
When the Internet began, there was a great deal of celebration that this would be the route to true democracy, justice, and progress. At first, it was such a wondrous thing, it was difficult to imagine its underbelly. But the child pornographers wasted no time polluting the ether with some of the most heinous crimes there are. The Internet in the end, reflects the human condition—a deep and complex mix of good and bad.
Just like real property, good fences make good neighbors in the ethersphere. Therefore, the critical issue facing us all is when will truly effective fences on the Internet become operative. The best fences protect privacy, but they are also constructed in a way that permits the authorities to enforce the law. Read more
Herculean efforts across the United States have been undertaken to eliminate the threshold legal barrier for most sex abuse victims: the statute of limitations. Some states have been very successful like Delaware and Minnesota while others remain mired in a system that blocks the vast majority of survivors like New York. To their credit, advocates, survivors, and their supporters continue to press even in the most backward states.
While a legislative push can be empowering for many survivors, it can also be traumatic when legislators irrationally reject the survivors’ pleas for justice. For example, Pennsylvania senators have professed allegiance to a non-existent Pennsylvania constitutional doctrine to avoid passing a bill that would revive expired SOLs for those who were shut out of the system. It is a cruel position that was captured beautifully in this political cartoon. Read more
Sometimes I feel like I should pen a letter of apology to the Framers of the Constitution. They fundamentally understood that people are inevitably tempted to abuse power and that concentrations of power are dangerous. It was a fortuitous and sage combination of common sense and the Presbyterianism of Princeton at the time. To put it a bit more simply: power must be checked, or it will run amok, and that goes double for combinations of power. And, oh yes, those who have power will work hard to be unaccountable. Power without accountability is the gravest danger we can face.
With that as the foundation, we really should be able to do better. Instead, lawmakers are increasingly the unaccountable power-grabbing people the Framers warned us about. And nowhere are our elected officials failing more spectacularly right now than in the case of child sex abuse. Read more