SNAP opposes proposed legislation in Arizona that includes language that would protect institutions from the consequences of sexual abuse

Many states are now taking steps to limit a governor's powers during a declared emergency. Unfortunately, in Arizona HB 2648 includes language that also gives privileges to churches and other religious organizations during such emergencies and allows those entities to be exempt from civil lawsuits. Opponents to this legislation, like Rep. Melody Hernandez, D-Tempe, and Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, agree that the wording in HB 2648 is unnecessary and could deny victims of child sex abuse their right to justice and compensation.

We strongly oppose HB 2648 simply because history has told a horrific story when it comes to institutions like the Catholic Church. We now know that organized religions will protect their institution at all costs and have shown complete disdain for the victims and families injured by perpetrators within their organization. The language in the proposed bill would protect those very same institutions from being held accountable for enabling and covering up abuse.

Tim Lennon, who serves as the President of the Board of Directors for SNAP, issued a personal plea to Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale.  SNAP and other survivor organizations supported Sen. Boyer when he sponsored the bill to open window legislation in Arizona.  The Senator has been very supportive of victims of child sexual abuse as well as those who advocate for them.

This is the letter written by Tim to Senator Boyer:

Dear Senator Boyer, 

I urge you to reject the dangerous Arizona HB 2648. No person, no institution should be immune to the rule of law and moral responsibility. No sexual predator should be protected from criminal and civil liability. 

Arizona HB 2648 exempts religious institutions from any accountability, criminal or civil, for instances of child sex abuse and other sexual crimes against the vulnerable.

Laws could be ignored, sexual predators given immunity, free from accountability. Institutions could continue a pattern of cover-ups of sexual abuse.

I was raped by my parish priest when I was twelve. The offending sexual predator was caught abusing children and minors three times BEFORE he came to my parish and raped me and sexually molested fifteen of my classmates. He was caught and transferred again.

When sexual predators and institutions avoid accountability, the community is in danger, children and the vulnerable are endangered. 

I also have the honor of serving as the President of the Board of Directors of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. During our thirty-year history, we have seen the importance of civil society (police, prosecutors, politicians) as being the best protector of children and the vulnerable. No institution (churches, athletic teams, Hollywood, universities, schools) should get a free pass when children are sexually abused. 

You provided needed reform in your efforts to change the Statute of Limitation laws in Arizona. That has been an important step in giving justice to survivors and protecting the community from predators. 

Please let me know if you have questions. Please note that I live in Tucson and would travel to Phoenix to help raise awareness of this issue if needed. 

Sincerely,

Tim Lennon

We have seen attempts in other states to provide immunity for those institutions that enabled some of the most horrific crimes in history. Allowing HB 2648 to advance with this language included would be a step back from the many steps forward that Arizona has taken to support victims of child sex abuse, protect the vulnerable, and finally hold those responsible accountable.

CONTACT:  Tim Lennon, SNAP President (415-312-5820 , [email protected]), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (267-261-0578, mmcdonnell@snapnetwork.org), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

 


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