31 Jan 2011

Summary of 2010 US legal reform of statutes of limitations related to child sex abuse

FindLaw - December 30, 2010

The Progress We've Made -- and Haven't Yet Made -- on Child-Sex-Abuse Statutes of Limitations: 2010, the Year in Review

by Marci A. Hamilton

Fortunately, the pace of legal reform regarding child-sex-abuse statutes of limitations did not abate in 2010. The logic of eliminating the statute of limitations ("SOL") for this heinous crime and tort -- and of creating an SOL "window" so that past victims can come forward and receive justice -- remains irrefutable. Study after study has proven that victims typically need decades to get to the psychological place where they can come forward to tell their stories in court, and that therefore, short statutes of limitations mean there will be no justice at all. Short SOLs also mean that perpetrators and their enablers remain cloaked in secrecy, which is just what is needed to perpetuate cycles of abuse; as the years pass with perpetrators and enablers unidentified, more and more children fall prey.

Even when the need for reform is obvious from a public-policy perspective, however, the law moves forward in fits and starts. This arena is no different. In this column, I'll cover the top 10 SOL events of 2010. Some represent major steps forward; some, deeply unfortunate developments.

The primary lesson of 2010, for this area of law, is that we are still in an age of experimentation regarding SOL reform, with states implementing a variety of approaches. The other moral of the story is that the Catholic Conferences of the states (the lobbying organizations for the Catholic bishops) are still spending millions to try to stop the inevitability of SOL reform.

Ten Important 2010 Events Relating to Child-Sex-Abuse Statute of Limitations Reform

The following are ten of the most crucial child-sex-abuse SOL-related events of this past year:

1. On May 11, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed into law a bill that eliminated the SOLs for many sex-abuse victims. The law eliminates "statutes of limitations to the institution of criminal or civil actions relating to sexual battery of a child if the victim is under 16 years of age at the time of the offense." The elimination of Florida's SOL for this crime and tort gives every child who is now being abused the ability to file charges and to go to court to obtain damages when he or she is ready. Instead of giving perpetrators and those who protect them the comfort of expired statutes of limitations, Florida has, laudably, made victims abused from the date of enactment into the future the priority.

2. Delaware enacted SOL "window" legislation for child-sex-abuse claims against medical providers. The new law arose in response to revelations about the formerly beloved pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley, who is alleged to have abused at least 100 children as part of his practice. When the news surfaced about Bradley's alleged abuse of his patients, it became clear that many of the victims were going to be forestalled from suing by the statutes of limitations. Previously, in 2007, Delaware had enacted its Child Victims Act (CVA), which (1) eliminated the SOL for civil child-sex-abuse cases, and (2) created a two-year window during which civil child-sex-abuse cases on which the SOL had already expired could still be brought in court. The cases that were brought during that SOL window are now moving through the Delaware courts. The CVA did not cover health care providers, as it turned out, and so Delaware enacted this new window for health care providers. Delaware remains the leader in the country for the protection of child sex abuse victims.

3. On January 1, 2010, an Oregon law went into effect that significantly increased opportunities for child-sex-abuse victims to go to court. In 2009, the law -- ORS 12.117 -- was amended to extend the civil statute of limitations until the victim reaches the age of 40, or until five years after the discovery of a connection between injury and abuse, whichever period is longer. While the law did not go into effect until January 1, it fortunately applies to those victims who were injured before that date.

4. A New York Senate committee finally considered the SOL window legislation that I discussed in this column. Before 2010, the New York Assembly had passed the Child Victims Act three times, but the bill never made it to even a committee hearing in the Senate -- largely because Republican Senator Joseph Bruno (who since then has been convicted of mail and wire fraud) had killed the bill. In 2010, Senate Codes Committee Chairman Eric Schneiderman permitted the bill to be openly debated in committee and held a vote. Schneiderman (now the New York Attorney General) voted in favor. Even though the bill did not make it out of committee, the fact that it was even acknowledged in the New York Senate was progress, and the fact that a politician seeking higher office in the state voted quite publicly in favor of the bill indicates a shift in the political calculation regarding SOL reform that bodes well for victims in the future. The Catholic Conference and League also rolled out the laughable claim that their opposition to SOL window legislation somehow vindicates their "civil rights." There is no right to avoid liability for creating the conditions for child sex abuse, and for geometrically increasing the number of child-sex-abuse victims. Stay tuned for more grandiose "rights" claims as the bishops and their lobbyists come to understand that they are the Sisyphus of SOL politics and not Zeus.

5. In Michigan, battle has been very publicly joined over child-sex-abuse SOL window legislation. As usual, the Catholic Conference is lobbying against it, but the bill's proponents have found passionate sponsors and remain committed to its passage.

6. In Wisconsin, too, the battle over child-sex-abuse SOL reform continues, with victims lined up on one side and the Catholic Conference on the other. In 2010, the legislation came closer to passage than at any time in the past. A bipartisan vote sent it out of the Assembly committee, hearings in both Houses went extremely well, and the press coverage was positive. The legislation will be re-introduced.

7. In 2010, Arizona considered child-sex-abuse SOL window legislation for the first time. However, the Catholic Conference lobbied hard, and succeeded in getting the language amended so that the SOL window would have applied only against a "defendant's direct or intentional conduct." In other words, under Arizona's bill, institutional negligence or recklessness in supervising or retaining abusing employees would not have been sufficient to allow a victim to take advantage of the SOL window. This amendment was quite obviously crafted to aid religious and other private institutions in avoiding liability for their actions in covering up the identities of abusing employees, and in creating the conditions for abuse. The watered-down bill died in committee, and tragically, Arizona continues to have one of the most restrictive SOLs for child-sex-abuse victims in the country.

8. The most disreputable 2010 child-sex-abuse SOL legislative "reform" law in the United States was enacted by the South Dakota legislature. For years, Catholic clergy inflicted horrendous abuse against Native American children in St. Joseph Indian School. A defense attorney for the school crafted SOL "reform" that actually retracted options the victims otherwise would have had, under prior law. Specifically, the new law prohibits any victim over the age of 40 from suing anyone other than the direct perpetrator. Thus, even if an institution knew an employee was abusing children and did nothing about it, the institution would still be immune under the new law. The new law has shut down many meritorious cases involving Native American victims, and it represents the first instance in which Catholic lobbyists have obtained SOL reform that targets a particular ethnic group.

9. The Ohio Supreme Court turned that state's child-sex-abuse SOL law -- which was already bad for victims -- into a law that is truly terrible for victims, by rejecting tolling of the SOL when the victim has repressed the memories of abuse. Several years earlier, the Catholic bishops personally halted window legislation.

10. After earlier extending the SOL to expire only when the child sex abuse victim reaches 48 years of age, Connecticut considered this year whether to add an SOL "window," allowing a limited period of time during which victims whose claims would have been time-barred could still file their complaints. The Catholic Conference killed the bill this time -- on its first time around -- but the proponents in Connecticut have not given up. And the public debate in the press has been helpful in outing the bishops' strategies and priorities.

As the developments in these ten states show, efforts to reform child-sex-abuse statutes of limitations and bring justice to victims are very much alive and well in America. Let's hope that in 2011, even more progress is made. When it is, we will know the identities of more perpetrators. Without them, our society continues to give perpetrators easier access to our children. The bills that increase opportunities for child sex abuse victims to go to prosecutors and to sue for damages rightly should be entitled "Expose the Predators and Their Enablers Acts."

Marci Hamilton, a FindLaw columnist, is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge 2008). A review of Justice Denied appeared on this site on June 25, 2008. Her previous book is God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005), now available in paperback. Her email is hamilton02@aol.com .

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Catholic church spends millions protecting predators and keeping victims out of court by fighting time limits law reform

New York priest defrocked for child sex abuse after 8 year church judicial process that excluded victim's rights

Catholic church fights New Jersey bill that would reform statute of limitations and expand liability to supervisors of children

New Jersey childhood sexual abuse statute of limitations law upheld

Catholic Conference fights law reforms across the U.S. that would extend statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases

U.K. Catholic child protection head says Vatican response inadequate, statute of limitations ignore long term effects of abuse

Law suits against Catholic church for fraud and negligence in sex abuse cases attempt to overcome restrictive statute of limitations

Documents in Nova Scotia clergy abuse case reveal why statute of limitations for child sexual abuse should be eliminated

Victims of sex abuse in Quebec revictimized by statute of limitations and lack of therapy services

Canadian Supreme Court rules woman's lawsuit against Catholic Church can proceed despite expired time limit

Brooklyn Bishop Avidly Opposes Bill Extending Time to File Child-Abuse Suits

Bill on Childhood Sexual Abuse Suits Is Amended to Add an Age Limit

Wisconsin considers law to remove age limit for child sex abuse suits, Milwaukee Archbishop objects

Priest sex abuse case in Illinois dismissed due to statute of limitations

Australia's Anglican leader fights sex abuse statute plan

Australian Anglican Church votes down internal push by clergy to drop the statute of limitations

Brooklyn Bishop endorses politician who played key role in defeating statute of limitations bill

Pope Benedict promises to better protect children in future, while New York Bishops fight to deny compensation to past victims

Wisconsin considers law to remove age limit for child sex abuse suits, Milwaukee Archbishop objects

Tennessee clergy abuse survivors seek justice for crimes committed by pedophile priests and end to time limits

Priest sex abuse case in Illinois dismissed due to statute of limitations

Episcopal bishop who covered up youth minister's sex abuse of minor reinstated due to church time limits

Child sex abuse inquiry finds Ontario church and gov't institutions revictimized survivors seeking help 

Australian clergy abuse survivors say they are being re-victimized by compensation process and Catholic hierarchy

U.S. clergy abuse survivors group, SNAP, goes global to address worldwide crisis of abuse and cover-up

Polygamist cult leader's silence in Texas court results in not guilty plea to bigamy and child sex charges

ABC News - Associated Press December 29, 2010

Texas Polygamist Sect Leader Pleads Not Guilty

Texas Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs pleads not guilty to sexual assault, bigamy



Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs remained mute during a Wednesday arraignment on bigamy and child sex abuse charges, forcing the West Texas court to enter not guilty pleas on his behalf.

The 55-year-old ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sat and said nothing as prosecutors read a sexual assault charge accusing him of having sex with a girl younger than 17. He was then ordered to stand as cases accusing him of aggravated sexual assault of a girl younger than 15 and bigamy were read.

District Judge Barbara Walther instructed Jeffs that his silence forced the court to enter not guilty pleas for him.

The charges against Jeffs stem from a 2008 raid of the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, a remote community south of San Angelo. Authorities seized 439 children and placed them in state custody on suspicion that the girls were being sexually abused and the boys were being raised to be sexual predators.

Most of the children were eventually returned to their families, but seven men in the sect who see Jeffs as their spiritual leader were charged and eventually convicted of child sexual assault and abuse.

On Wednesday, Jeffs wore glasses, orange jail pants and a gray sweat shirt and sat by himself at the defense table. He has been unable to hire a Texas attorney in the nearly 30 days since he was extradited from Utah, where he was convicted on accomplice rape charges a ruling that was later overturned.

Jeffs told Walther that he wanted to find his own attorney in Texas, rather than have one appointed by the court. He said he has identified the firm he wants to represent him and that they were still hammering out the details.

"I haven't made a final contact that they (the law firm) agreed to represent me," Jeffs told Walther when pressed on whether he would have representation by his next scheduled court appearance on Jan. 5. "It's beyond my control."

In the meantime, prosecutors have been speaking to Richard Wright, a prominent Las Vegas attorney who represented Jeffs in Utah and Arizona but is not licensed to practice in Texas.

Wright sat in the courtroom gallery Wednesday, after his petition for temporary admission to the Texas bar was turned down.

Jeffs is being held without bond and is scheduled to stand trial for aggravated sexual assault Jan. 24. He says it has been difficult for him to find a Texas attorney with the start of that trial looming.

Prosecutors plan to try Jeffs on each charge separately. His trial for sexual assault is set to begin Feb. 21 and his trial for bigamy is scheduled for March 14.

Jeffs was extradited to Texas Nov. 30 but had been jailed in Utah, where the state Supreme Court overturned his 2007 conviction on accomplice rape charges, citing improper jury instructions.

On Dec. 20, the Utah Supreme Court denied a petition from that state's attorney general seeking a rehearing of an appeal from Jeffs, asking the justices to better clarify how the jury instructions should have been drafted.

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Utah Supreme Court denies rehearing of conviction reversal in polygamous sect leader's accomplice to rape case 

Polygamist leader failed to delay Texas trial set to start January 2011, supporter says God approves of child brides 

Texas juries have convicted 5 Mormon fundamentalists from cult compound, 2 others pled guilty, leader Jeffs next to be tried 

Mormon polygamist cult leader Jeffs extradited to Texas to face charges related to child 'brides' and bigamy

Utah Court allows extradition of Mormon fundamentalist leader Jeffs to Texas to face child 'bride' sex abuse charges

Utah Court of Appeals suspends extradition of Mormon fundamentalist leader to Texas while it considers legal issues

Mormon polygamist cult leader's lawyer says Utah and Texas conspiring through extradition to deny his constitutional rights

Mormon polygamist sect leader still fighting extradition to Texas where prosecutors have more evidence against him

Utah sending Mormon polygamist leader to Texas to face bigamy, child sex assault charges 

Jon Krakauer's reaction to court's reversal of Mormon polygamist's rape convictions

Utah Supreme Court decides to not protect FLDS girls from forced marriage, overturns Warren Jeffs' accomplice to rape convictions

Child 'bride' key witness against Warren Jeffs stunned by court's reversal of rape convictions, fears for safety of FLDS children

Mormon polygamist leader jailed in Utah refuses to sign warrant extraditing him to Texas to face child sex charges

Extradition process started to bring jailed Mormon polygamist leader to Texas for trial after Arizona drops cases against him

First legal finding that bigamy occurred at Mormon fundamentalist compound sees two more polygamists sent to prison

Warren Jeffs' FLDS Church and What I Left Behind

Jeffs's wedding pictures disgust

Texas seeks custody of teen Jeffs allegedly wed

Jeffs' role: Coercion, devotion?

Jurors: Girl’s age was crucial to decision in Warren Jeffs trial

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When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back

New Book on Warren Jeffs' Polygamy Sect Provides Insight into Lives of Women Enslaved by Fundamentalist Group

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Hate mail from Mormon polygamists doesn't faze Texas lawmaker who crafted laws to protect girls from religious abuse

Another child victim of Church of the First Born, mother charged with neglect after 9 year old son dies from untreated diabetes

News On 6 - Tulsa, Oklahoma

Broken Arrow Mother Faces Neglect Charges In Son's Death

Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- A Green Country woman's religious beliefs could send her to prison. She's accused of felony child neglect for choosing prayer over medicine for her sick son.

Tulsa County prosecutors have charged Susan Grady with felony child neglect for the death of her 9-year-old son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died in Broken Arrow 18 months ago.

The medical examiner found that he died from complications of diabetes. Investigators say three days before he died, Aaron got very sick.

Witnesses told police he was lethargic, urinating on himself, and breathing hard, but they also say he was still eating. Investigators talked to five people who said they'd visited the boy to pray for him.

The police affidavit says Susan Grady's brother was there when his father tried to get Susan to take her son to the doctor.

According to police records Grady says she knew the boy was very sick, but she didn't consider taking him to the doctor, because she was "trying to live by faith" and she "felt like God would heal him."

The police affidavit says Grady told police she was a member of the Church of the First Born.

The Church of the Firstborn made headlines back in 1999. Tulsa baby Alexis Sandefur was born with cystic fibrosis and a perforated bowel.

Her parents were members of the Church of the Firstborn and refused to get her medical treatment, believing prayer would heal her. The state took custody of Alexis, and she underwent several surgeries against her parent's wishes.

After a nine-month legal battle, baby Alexis left the hospital and went home to her parents. She was terminally ill and died a week later.

The case in 1999 did not lead to criminal charges. Susan Gray is not in police custody, but a warrant for her arrest has been issued.

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Tulsa World - Oklahoma December 31, 2010

Faith-based healing reviewed

The death of a boy whose mother failed to seek medical care puts focus on her church and others.

By BILL SHERMAN | World Religion Writer

Child neglect charges filed against a woman whose son died of untreated diabetes has put the spotlight on a church with a long history of court cases over its rejection of medical aid.

Susan M. Grady, formerly of Broken Arrow, was charged in Tulsa County District Court on Tuesday, 18 months after her 9-year-old son, Aaron, died of complications from diabetes mellitus.

She told detectives she was a member of the Church of the First Born and "believes in faith-based healing through prayer."

The Church of the First Born is one of the most frequent offenders in religion-based child medical neglect, said Dr. Seth Asser, a Rhode Island pediatrician who has published a study about children who died after their parents offered them prayer without medical help.

Asser said the Church of the First Born, well-known in Oklahoma, and Followers of Christ, an offshoot of the church that is located in the Pacific Northwest, together are responsible for more child deaths than any other group.

He estimated that one to two dozen American children die each year because their parents neglect to get them medical help, choosing instead to pray for their healing. That is about 1 percent of all child-abuse deaths.

"It's not a big number, but unlike a lot of the others, these are entirely preventable," he said.

Asser and child advocate Rita Swan worked together on a study of 172 child deaths due to what they called religion-based medical neglect and found that 140 of them would have had a 90 percent chance of survival and 18 others a 50 percent chance of survival with proper medical care.

"Most were ordinary illnesses that no one dies from - appendicitis, pneumonia ... - and many of them died slow, horrible deaths, without the benefit of (pain-relief) medicine," he said.

Swan is a former Christian Scientist who left that church after her young son died without medical attention while a Christian Science practitioner prayed for him. She founded Child Inc. in Sioux City, Iowa, to fight religion-based medical neglect.

"In Oklahoma, the Church of the First Born is the big offender," she said.

Nationwide, her organization knows of six children who died in 2009.

"It's quite haphazard. Many are unreported," she said.

"We're not against prayer," she said. "Parents have a right to pray for divine healing. But when parents see the situation is critical, they have a responsibility to seek medical help in addition to prayer."

Members of the Church of the First Born have been involved in several child-death court cases over the last three decades, including an Enid case in 1982 that motivated the Oklahoma Legislature in 1983 to limit the so-called "religious exemption." The exemption was part of an earlier law that said parents cannot be prosecuted for failure to provide medical treatment for their children, if their decision was based on their religious convictions.

Based on the exemption, an Enid couple was acquitted of manslaughter in the death of their 9-year-old son, who had a ruptured appendix.

Under Oklahoma's current law, parents can rely solely on prayer for their child's healing as long as the child is not in danger of death or permanent physical damage.

Religious groups that eschew medical help are a tiny minority in the United States.

Thomson Mathew, dean of the Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions, described them as misguided.

"They are very much in the fringe today," he said.

"In many cases, they are not theologically trained, and they teach that dependence on medicine demonstrates a lack of faith in God. That puts pressure on people," he said.

He said that worldwide, charismatic and Pentecostal Christians believe in supernatural healing as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

But the accepted theological position is that all healing is from God, who heals through both natural and supernatural means.

The merging of medicine and prayer was a major theme in the ministry of Oral Roberts, who founded the former City of Faith medical complex, Mathew noted.

Christian Scientists and Jehovah's Witnesses are two other groups that have found themselves at the intersection of religious freedom and court-ordered medical care.

Leroy Gatlin, with the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Oklahoma, said the death of Aaron Grady was tragic but has no connection to the practice of Christian Science.

He said the Christian Science Church emphasizes the healing power of prayer but leaves it up to the individual to decide the best thing to do under the circumstances.

"For me, the decision regarding the care of children should be made wisely and quickly," Gatlin said. "Certainly prayer is something I naturally turn to as my first option, but not my only option. If I'm not seeing quick and effective results from prayer, I would turn to other options.

"There's no prohibition against seeking medical assistance, ... and it's never God's will for a child to be sick or to die."

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that blood transfusions violate the biblical command not to ingest blood.

Spokesman Mark Snead said the denomination works with doctors and hospitals to use nonblood alternatives to medical care and to make it a rare instance when medical authorities seek court intervention to give blood transfusions to patients who are Jehovah's Witnesses.

Earl Weir, one of the Tulsa leaders at the Church of the First Born, said Wednesday that he doesn't preach about denying medical attention but that God's word proves that faith is all that's needed. He said church members are free to do what they want.

National church leaders did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview.

This article was found at:



Survivor of faith healing church that lets children die tells of spiritual and psychological abuse, advises members to leave

Pastor and lawyer claim religious persecution of parents charged for allowing 2 year old to die from pneumonia without medical care

Philadelphia 'faith healing' parents face criminal charges for letting 2 year old die without medical care

Claims of persecution ridiculous in societies where Christians have special privileges to indoctrinate children

More legal protections needed for sick children whose parents reject modern medicine

Parents plead not guilty in faith-healing death

Faith Healing Parents Assert Religious Rights

Oregon judge rejects attempt to dismiss case against 'faith healing' parents who allowed son to die

Parents who call minister instead of doctor believe they do right

For more articles search for "faith healing" on this blog.

Belgian priest admits he sexually abused 8 year old cousin, stops campaign to nominate him for Nobel Peace Prize

Daily Mail - UK December 30, 2010

Priest and Nobel Peace Prize candidate, 85, admits child abuse 40 years ago


A Belgian Catholic priest and would-be Nobel Peace Prize holder has admitted that he sexually abused an eight-year-old boy 40 years ago.

The case only came forward when his cousin, the sister of his victim, came forward in reaction to a campaign to nominate Francois Houtart for the accolade.

She told the Belgian church authority that looks into child abuse, the Adriaenssens commission, that the abuse on her brother happened in 1970 while he stayed at their house.

Houtart, 85, was a prominent third world activist and chairman of a development agency that he founded in 1976, Center Tricontinental, until he resigned from the board in November in light of the allegations.

He is currently in Ecuador and was not responding to phone calls or emails.

Houtart told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir that he twice touched 'the intimate parts' of his cousin, an incident he called 'inconsiderate and irresponsible.'

She details the abuse of her brother, which she describes as 'rape,' by an unnamed priest.

But the victim's sister says the priest, who was a friend of her father, entered her brother's room twice 'to rape him.'

'Before the third time, my brother went to tell his parents, who kept him in their room,' she is quoted as saying in the report.

The priest said he spoke to the victim’s parents to see if they wanted him to quit as a priest but they told him to speak to a professor in Brussels.

They advised him to stay in the priesthood and concentrate on his academic work in religious sociology.

Houtart also told the newspaper that he had asked supporters to suspend the campaign for his nomination for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Once dubbed as the ‘Pope of anti-globalisation’ he was professor of sociology at the Catholic University of Brussels from 1958 until 1990.

He attended the second Vatican council for three years from 1962 and was one of the pioneers of the first World Social Forum in Proto Alegre in 2001 - an event when countries gather to look at different ways of running democracies.

Houtart is the eldest of 14 children and grandson of County Henry Carton de Wiart, a pioneer of the Catholic Party and Belgian Prime Minister from 1920 to 1921.

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Belgium's Catholic primate faces demands to step down after controversial remarks on pedophile priests and AIDS

Crisis of moral authority and credibility for Belgian Catholic church after decades of clergy abuse that destroyed lives

Belgian archbishop wants mercy for retired pedophile priests but shows no empathy for victims, government starts investigation

Head of church-backed probe into Belgian clergy crimes says the Pope must set an example and resign


New book by UN judge says Vatican should be treated as a rogue state until it abandons canon law and stops protecting abusers

Christopher Hitchens: holding the Catholic Church accountable for its crimes takes earthly justice

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Pope & Church tested by children's voices crying out for accountability and justice long after childhood

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Why should the pope and other church officials get away with violating the rule of law and the rights of children?

Pope's promise to restore the purity of Catholicism almost impossible with scandals implicating entire church hierarchy

Catholic abuse crisis pits Church against society and moral legacies of two popes against each other

New York Times article details Benedict's failures to act sooner against child abuse, Catholic apologists 'shoot the messenger'

New York Times' Public Editor responds to Catholic criticisms of its coverage of clergy crimes scandals

Vatican officials, including future pope, refused to defrock "evil, remorseless sociopath" priest until 9 years after his first conviction for sex crimes

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Unholy week of political spin by church hierarchy shielding pope from personal responsibility for failing to protect children

Pope's passive apology fails to admit personal responsibility for protecting pedophile priests instead of children

Pope is all talk, no action, over Irish clergy abuse and cover-up by Church hierarchy

Woman 'married' to cult leader Tony Alamo when she was 12 joins civil lawsuit against Alamo Ministries

Texarkana Gazette, December 24, 2010

Former wife of Alamo joins lawsuit

By Lynn LaRowe

Another former wife of imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo has been added as a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit that names the ministry, church-run businesses and high-ranking individuals in the organization as defendants.

Pebbles Rodriguez claims Alamo married her in 1999 when she was 12. She left Alamo Ministries and separated from him in the summer of 2010, according to an amended complaint filed this week by local attorney David Carter.

“Pebbles just recently parted ways with those who still consider Tony Alamo as their world pastor,” Carter said. “She is no longer under the influence of those who make excuses for Alamo’s abuse and has chosen to assert her claims along with the other young ladies.”

Tony Alamo changed Pebbles Rodriguez’s first name to Yvonne when he took her as a bride, the amended complaint alleges.

The other plaintiffs include the five women who were named as victims in Alamo’s 10-count federal indictment and Nicole Farr. Farr allegedly was being groomed to be a wife when she “made a dramatic escape” from Alamo’s Fouke, Ark., residence, according to the lawsuit. Farr testified against Alamo during his trial, as did former child brides Jeanne Orlando, Desiree Kolbek, Jamie Rodriguez (who is not related to Pebbles), Amy Eddy and Summer Hagan. The five are named as plaintiffs in the civil suit.

A federal jury in July 2009 convicted Alamo of bringing minors across state lines for sex. Later that year, U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes sentenced Alamo to 175 years in prison. This year, an appellate court affirmed the convictions and sentence.

In the 83-page amended complaint, Carter describes in more detail how Alamo Ministries’ business enterprises are liable for the plaintiffs’ suffering. The businesses are Twenty First Century Holiness Tabernacle Church Inc., Gloryland Christian Church, Arms Full of Help, Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation, Music Square Church Inc., SJ Distributing, Action Distributors, Advantage Food Group and Jeanne Estates Apartments and individual defendants Sally Demoulin, Sharon Alamo and Steve Johnson.

The businesses operated for Tony Alamo’s benefit and the benefit of the defendants, the complaint states.

To demonstrate the collective nature of ministry-run enterprises, Carter points to the use of trucks.

“In one operation, the church business schemers would solicit donations to Arms Full of Help, a sham charity. The schemers would send one of the church business scheme trucks with a member driving the truck to accept the donations on behalf of Arms Full of Help,” the complaint states. “Then, the same worker/member in the same truck would change the sign on the side of the truck to read Advantage Food Group and sell the donated goods on behalf of Advantage Food Group. The money would then go into the ‘bookkeeper’ account for use by the church defendants and church business defendants. This was just one of the many schemes used to generate funds that perpetuated Tony Alamo’s child sex ring.”

Demoulin allegedly maintains control of a bookkeeping account to which funds from the business defendants are deposited and then distributed, the complaint states. Johnson, Sharon Alamo and Demoulin allegedly hold properties in their names and conduct business on behalf of Alamo Ministries. Property and business ownership is transferred regularly among members “in a shell game” to avoid creditors, the complaint alleges.

The complaint refers specifically to a business meeting held in the Fouke house Tony Alamo shared with his wives attended by Demoulin, Sharon Alamo, who also was married to Tony, and Johnson. According to the complaint, the three individual defendants witnessed an 8-year-old Desiree Kolbek stroke Alamo’s legs and thighs.

Alamo allegedly commented on the behavior by asking those in attendance if they thought he was “dirty” before “reminding them he was ‘Of the Lord,’” the complaint states.

According to the complaint, the individual defendants knew Alamo was sexually, physically and psychologically abusing the plaintiffs.

The suit asks the court to award the plaintiffs damages for their past and future medical expenses, past physical pain and suffering, past and future mental anguish, attorney’s fees and court costs.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren in the Texarkana division of the Western District of Arkansas.

The defendants have filed answers to the first complaint to deny the allegations. They have not yet responded to the amended complaint.

No hearings have been scheduled.

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Cult evangelist Tony Alamo's convictions for child sex crimes upheld by federal appeals court

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US homeland security agents in training told by professional propagandist to kill Muslim children

The Huffington Post - December 20, 2010

Islam-Bashing Bigots Train Counterterrorism Agents

by Chip Berlet

"Kill them...including the children."

That's how to solve the threat of militant Muslims?

This quote is from what one official involved in homeland security said was the theme of a speech by Walid Shoebat at an anti-terrorism training in Las Vegas in October 2010.

Our source had turned around after Shoebat's speech and asked the woman in the chair behind them at the conference what she thought was the solution offered by Shoebat.

"Kill them...including the children...you heard him," was the full response.

Shoebat's Las Vegas speech was described by our source as "frightening."

Bigoted trainers including Shoebat are highlighted in today's Washington Post article on "Monitoring America." Much of this information is new. Some of it was previously documented in a PRA Report, "Platform for Prejudice."

Shoebat and the larger issue of how "Right-Wing Firms Train Public Servants on Terror Threats" is the topic of a new report to be issued in January by Political Research Associates (where I work). OK, not credited for our work by the Washington Post and then partially scooped on this topic just as we are about to release our report. Sigh. That's real life. Back to Shoebat.

George D. Little, Director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Studies (ICJS) at Texas State University, in San Marcos, TX, also attended the Shoebat speech at the Las Vegas training. When first contacted by e-mail after the ICTOA conference, Little responded "I believe there are good Muslims like there are bad ones just like there are good Christians and bad ones." Little, however, dodged repeated questions about what he specifically thought of the content of Shoebat's speech, and now refuses to comment altogether.

Shoebat is popular in Texas, having helped organize an anti-Islamic event near Fort Hood; spoken at an evangelical church; and conducted a statewide law enforcement training, "Preparing Law Enforcement Executives for the Future," co-sponsored by the state's Attorney General, Greg Abbott. Shoebat is also periodically interviewed as an expert on Islam on Fox News and is extensively quoted by the right-wing conspiracy website, World Net Daily.

Another Las Vegas conference attendee, Edwin Urie, praised Mr. Shoebat's ICTOA speech. "From my perspective, Mr. Shoebat's presentation was so much on the mark, so specific, and so correct that I was concerned that he would be the target of those about whom he spoke. Maybe the objections are merely a part of that," wrote Urie in an e-mail. Urie is an adjunct professor at Henley-Putnam University and a specialist in counterrorism.

Watchdogs like Bartholomew and several Muslim and human rights groups have been complaining about this problem for some time.

Last month I posted here on Shoebat and his allies, and included the next two paragraphs.

Shoebat has said that "Islam is not the religion of God -- Islam is the devil." According to religion writer Richard Bartholomew, "Shoebat is a pseudo-expert on terrorism, Islamic extremism, and Biblical prophecy, and he teaches that Obama is a secret Muslim and that the Bible has prophesised a Muslim anti-Christ." This means for some apocalyptic Christians that Muslims then would be allies of Satan in the End Times battle between good and evil. This battle ends when Jesus returns and with a vengeful God kills all these deemed to be non-believers in Christianity. This bloody and bigoted version of apocalyptic prophesies is rejected and condemned by the Catholic and Orthodox churches and every major Protestant denomination.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali wrote about Shoebat and other anti-Islamic bigots on the website of Muslim Military Members, an organization that serves as a network for Muslims serving in the US Armed Forces. "Walid Shoebat has built a lucrative speaking career by manipulating the fears and whipping up hatred between Jews and Muslims," wrote Ghazali.

Keith Davies, Director of the Walid Shoebat Foundation, disagrees. Davies claims that the Islamic "definition of Jihad quoted in Sharia law is clear and means struggle but is used in context of holy war to conquer infidels."

Davies continues:

This is the standard interpretation recognized by all schools of thought in Sunni and Shia Islam." [Not] every Muslim practices his religion to the letter but all that do are required to practice Jihad....So if say for argument 10% of Muslims actually practice their religion properly ( figure is probably much higher) that would be 150 million terrorists. Even if it were 1% that is 1.5 million terrorists.

This interpretation of Islamic Law and its religious demands is an outlandish distortion; and yet it is being taught to our homeland security personnel. Davies, disagrees with me, and had a suggestion for me. Wrote Davies, "If you hate this country and its constitutional values of individual freedom and respect Islamic people so much, maybe Saudi Arabia could be a good place for you to live...."

Shoebat's speech in Las Vegas was sponsored by the International Counter Terrorism Officers Association (ICTOA). Michael Riker, president of the ICTOA, said that "Numerous public safety personnel along with military personnel heard from Walid Shoebat" at the event. Then Riker defended Shoebat's bigoted tirade in a comment to my earlier Huffpost article (it's near the earliest).

What you hear from Walid is the TRUTH. The attendees were glued to what [Shoebat] had to say and the majority of them agreed. The liberal media is afraid to hear what the truth really is. Who has been planning attacks on our country? We are in a war of ideology and if you don't know that you need to get you head out of the sand. Before you make judgment see what is really going on then make an educated decision for yourself.

Federal and state agencies have turned to right-wing "experts" on "subversion" throughout U.S. history. These experts have included informers who have surfaced to spin their tales in public; or converts who claim to have been involved in skullduggery and now are sounding the alarm. In both cases, the alarmist stories these self-dramatizing demagogues tell tend to be exaggerated or even invented.

The fear that there is a conspiracy to undermine the government emerges periodically throughout our history as a nation. This hunt for an exaggerated subversive enemy "Other" is dubbed a "countersubversion" panic.

One government official involved in deporting thousands of innocent Italians and Russians during the "Palmer Raids" panic in the 1920s described it as a "delirium." Most of us just call it a "Witch Hunt." Whatever we call it, this countersubversion tendency has fueled episodes of political repression by government agencies and right-wing "patriotic" groups.

Shoebat may be the most outlandish example of the coterie of anti-Islamic bigots and fear mongers who are training law enforcement officials and anti-terrorism agents, but the problem is corrosive. Why are tax dollars being spent to peddle prejudice against Muslims in the United States? The Washington Post report will get much needed attention drawn to this matter. The upcoming report by Cincotta documents the problem in even greater detail.

The solution will depend on a thorough and public review of this sad situation by government officials, elected representatives, a vigilant media, and public outrage.

This article was found at:


Secularists campaign to change UK law that makes religious assemblies in schools compulsory, government and church resist

Secular News Daily - March 1, 2011

Freedom Bill ‘ideal vehicle to scrap law on compulsory worship in schools’

by British Humanist Association

The Protection of Freedoms Bill, which MPs will be debating for the first time today, is ‘an ideal vehicle’ for the law requiring collective worship in schools to be scrapped, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has commented today.

Following an online consultation, the BHA included the views of ordinary people in its briefing which it distributed widely to MPs to help them prepare for the debate.

In England all state maintained schools are legally required to provide a daily act of collective worship for all of their pupils. In community schools the majority of the acts of daily collective worship provided in a given term are legally required to be of a ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character’. In ‘faith schools’ the act of worship is provided in accordance with the school’s trust deed or the tenets and practices of the religion of the school.

The law is widely unpopular. In November 2010, leading teaching unions and education campaigners joined together with the BHA and religious representatives to call on the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, to scrap collective worship in schools and replace it with inclusive assemblies.

While parents have the right to withdraw children from worship – many respondents to the consultation expressed unease at singling out their child for removal. The inability for children under sixteen to withdraw themselves has been criticised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in 2008 as violating fundamental freedoms.

BHA Education Campaigns Officer Jenny Pennington commented, ‘There is no good argument for retaining a law which compels schools to hold daily acts of worship; a law which infringes on children’s rights and which most secondary schools struggle to observe. We were unsurprised to see many people expressing their desire to have this restrictive law scrapped under the much vaunted Freedom Bill through the Government’s ‘Your Freedom’ website. It is extremely disappointing therefore that the government has chosen to ignore the wishes of many people by so far failing to include the repeal of the law in the Bill.

‘If the government wishes to free schools from prescriptive legal regimes, then it is difficult to see why the law on collective worship, should not be one of the first laws to be thrown on the bonfire.’

For more information please contact Jenny Pennington jenny@humanism.org.uk or 020 7462 4993.

Just a few reasons to scrap the law on collective worship:

* It’s widely unpopular: teachers, parents and pupils themselves have repeatedly opposed this legal requirement.

* It infringes on young peoples’ rights to freedom of belief by forcing them to worship.

* Scrapping the law would reduce bureaucracy in schools and unnecessary obligations on hard-pressed teachers.

* The law impedes schools’ ability to provide good inclusive assemblies.

* The parental right of withdrawal is not a satisfactory solution – most pupils cannot opt themselves out.

* Teachers are often put in an invidious position, having to lead acts of worship which may not reflect their own beliefs.

* The removal of the compulsory nature of collective worship would not prevent faith schools from holding assemblies which reflect their religious character. Scrapping the law would simply mean that schools could decide for themselves what kind of assembly is best for their pupils.


Read our briefing for the Commons Second Reading of the Protection of Freedoms Bill

You can Take Action! on the issue of compulsory collective worship in schools.

Related articles on Secular News Daily:


Daily Mail - UK December 28, 2010

Christian assemblies in schools face axe over claims they infringe children's human rights

Christian assemblies in schools could be scrapped if campaigning atheists and teachers get their way.

According to the National Secular Society, a legal requirement for pupils to take part in a daily act of collective worship ‘of a broadly Christian character’ discriminates against young atheists and non-Christians, and infringes human rights.

And the campaign has support from headmasters who claim that many schools already ignore the requirement, despite it being set in stone since the passing of the 1944 Education Act.

The Association of School and College Leaders has also suggested assemblies should end, and the British Humanist Association is campaigning on the subject.

But the most direct attack on religious assemblies, which represents yet another assault on Britain’s historic Christian culture, has come in a letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove from Keith Porteous, executive director of the National Secular Society.

Mr Porteous wrote: ‘We believe that the mandatory daily acts of mainly Christian worship and, in particular, the imposition on children to take part in such acts, represent an infringement of rights.

‘We recognise that assemblies with an ethical framework have a vital contribution to make to school life.

‘We do, however, object to collective worship in principle, as not being a legitimate activity of a state-funded institution.

‘We are confident that you would not wish to perpetuate a law that is routinely disregarded. We hope that, under your leadership, the law will be changed so that it is brought out of disrepute.’

The letter goes on to urge the Education Secretary to scrap the requirement to stage Christian assemblies in an education bill due to be produced next year.

Although parents can withdraw their children from such assemblies simply by writing a letter to the headmaster or headmistress, the atheist campaigners claim many fear such letters could make their children targets for bullying.

The National Secular Society had already prompted outrage this year by launching legal action using the much-derided Human Rights Act to stop councils beginning meetings with prayers.

If such action was taken through the appropriate courts, religious assemblies could ultimately be ruled illegal.

The campaigning atheists have willing supporters inside the school system, with many of them saying schools do not have big enough halls to accommodate all their pupils every morning.

Paul Kelley, the headmaster of Monkseaton High School, Tyne and Wear, has claimed that most schools ignore the requirement to stage a daily collective act of worship anyway.

Five years ago, he lobbied the Labour government to scrap the requirement, but was told the House of Lords would never approve such a move.

The Association of School and College Leaders has also backed calls for an end to the law on daily religious assemblies, saying that in reality they often simply did not happen.

ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman said: ‘Many schools aren’t doing the daily act of worship and theoretically they are breaking the law.’

The Church of England, however, is strongly opposed to changing the law.

A spokesman said: ‘To deny children the entitlement to take part in worship at school is to deny them a learning experience that is increasingly important in the modern world.’

And the Department for Education said the Government was not planning to bring an end to compulsory Christian assemblies.

A spokesman said: ‘The Government believes that the requirement for collective worship in schools encourages pupils to reflect on the concept of belief and the role it plays in the traditions and values of this country.

‘Schools have the flexibility to design provision that is appropriate to the age and background of their pupils.

‘If a headteacher feels it is inappropriate to have Christian collective worship, the school can apply to have this changed.’

This article was found at:



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