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Proposed Bill in California State Assembly Puts Church at Risk
The Catholic Church in California is confronted with a challenge with significant implications for not only the Church, but groups like the YMCA, Little League, AYSO, Big Brothers and Sisters Clubs and hundreds of other private service organizations that care for children.
In the late evening of May 29th, the California State Senate passed Senate Bill 131, proposed legislation authored by state Senator Jim Beall (D-Campbell) and supported by trial attorney. This legislation seeks to amend the current California statute of limitations as it relates to the filing of civil lawsuits concerning the abuse of minors by again opening another one-year window for those alleging long past abuse to sue the Church and other non-profit services organizations.
Supporters of SB 131 were only able to garner the minimum number of votes (21) needed for the bill’s passage in the State Senate and just one additional vote than the minimum required in the State Assembly for passage in face of vociferous opposition by many concerned Catholics and Californians that worked tirelessly opposing this bill, thinking this legislation is poorly written, does not adequately protect children and unduly impacts the Church and other not-for-profit organizations. SB 131 will now be voted on again by the State Senate for “concurrence” in the coming days
If enacted, this bill offers no further protections to children nor does it increase criminal penalties for abusers. What it does do is expose the Church and other not-for-profit organization to unlimited liability. The bill's author claims that this legislation will help victims, protect children and prevent abuse. The Catholic Church strongly supports these aims and has worked tirelessly over the past decade to advance such efforts. But the Church does not support SB 131 in its current form because it does not extend any added protection to the 90 percent of children who attend public school, while targeting not-for-profit service organizations, such as our Church.
Dioceses throughout California have worked to atone for past mistakes and have implemented robust procedures to ensure children and young people are as safe as we can make them. They have also pressed for changes in law and society to ensure children and young people are better protected. SB 131 does little to help advance this critical work. Existing law protects public schools, city recreation leagues and other local governments from being sued for any abuse that took place before 2009.
The changes within the proposed law will only affect private employers such as churches, youth leagues, the YMCA, foster homes and private schools by opening up yet another one year window for victims of long past abuse to sue private employers, opening them up to unlimited liability.
Please join the California Bishops in urging the legislature to re-think SB131 and modifying it in a way that would truly seek to stop abuse, punish the abuser, protect children and aid victims. The current approach is not acceptable.
Resources are included here for e-mailing and calling your state assembly member.