July 25, 2005

The Wisconsin and New Hampshire Supreme Courts Rule Against Clergy Abuse Victims



Monday, Jul. 25, 2005

In two recent cases involving clergy abuse - in Wisconsin and New Hampshire -- state Supreme Court rulings left victims out in the cold. Neither decision made new law, but that is why they are worth noting: The law in this area is desperately in need of amendment, if we are to prevent children from being sexually victimized in the future, and provide remedies to those who have already been traumatized by abuse. (Full disclosure, I represented the victims in each of these cases.)

As I have discussed in previous columns (such as this recent one), the legal system has fallen well short of doing justice to the victims of clergy abuse. Why? In part the explanation is that, as I document in my recent book, God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law -- Americans are na´ve when it comes to the actions of religious individuals and institutions.

Many of us find it very hard to accept even clear proof that these individuals and institutions have done wrong. This attitude, while understandable - we want to look up to our clergy and houses of worship - must change. The proof is there, and it is irrefutable. We cannot ignore it. Yet until recently, courts, in particular, have been slow to hold religious institutions accountable for the harm they have done.

In this column, I will explain the ramifications of the Wisconsin and New Hampshire decisions, and the way the state legislatures ought to amend their laws, in the wake of these decisions.

Posted by kshaw at July 25, 2005 05:36 AM