USA--Colleges get religious exemptions; Victims group is wary
For immediate release: Friday, Dec. 11, 2015
It’s troubling to learn that dozens of colleges have won exemptions from laws that apply to other institutions. We believe these exemptions will make these colleges less safe for students and staff and will make it easier for administrators to hide sexual violence.
Time and time again, we’ve seen officials in many church groups claim they can’t be sued for child sex crimes or adult sexual exploitation because of their religious beliefs. We’ve seen them seek and get special treatment ostensibly because of their faith, only to use that special treatment to hid offenders and enablers and escape punishment for their wrongdoing. So we are highly skeptical of the wisdom of these exemptions.
Given how widespread child sex crimes and campus sexual violence are, we beg government officials to be very cautious and move slowly with exemptions that might make it tougher for victims to expose school staff who commit or conceal these crimes. When religious figures perpetrate or hide sex crimes, they must be held responsible in court like any other employers.
(At least a couple of Catholic institutions that have gotten exemptions have been embroiled in clergy sex scandals, including Franciscan University in Ohio and Belmont Abbey in North Carolina.)
Religious freedom is important. But so too is personal safety, especially for innocent kids and vulnerable adults. We should bend over backwards to tolerate religious belief. But we should go even further to protect personal safety. And we should never confuse belief with behavior. With belief, anything goes. With behavior, there are limits. And those limits preclude religious officials from exploiting their faith to evade consequences for immoral, hurtful acts of sexual violence or deceit about that violence.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, email@example.com)
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.