Muldoon I applaud your activism. We need a few more people like you, in fact I sure wish I could find one or two here in my state, New Jersey.
I also have been a victim of clergy abuse...I still practice my faith and KNOW most priests are good. That said....the Church leadership has used our state laws which gives them absolute immunity to coerce victims who have come forward into accepting small settlements along with a confidentiality agreement..as opposed to losing their case in court by virture of our states current law. Case after case has been dismissed here in NJ...these institutions are off the hook.
I have been actively seeking to change some current laws here in New Jersey. I believe the statute of limitations should be eliminated in its entirety when involving cases of the sexual molestation of a minor. Also, we have a law here which is called the "Charitable Immunity Act" It gives complete immunity to all non-profit institutions here in this state when a member of that institutions seeks to bring a lawsuit. So...a child who was sexually molested by say a teacher in a private school or a member of the clergy...has no legal recourse against the institution if you were a member. A non-member could bring action. How screwed up is that?
Since 1999 I asked my local state senator Joseph Vitale to introduce an ammendment to our current state law which would remove their immunity in cases of sexual abuse against a minor. The Senator agreed and introduced the bill. The bill was assigned to the judiciary committee where only that chairman can move the bill out of committee. The State Senator (William Gormley) refuses to even listen to the victims. He flatley refuses to post this bill for a hearing and wants everyone to believe there is no support for this change. Since 1999 he ignored at least 10 requests to move this bill forward. It was allowed to expire and had to be reintroduced this year. The truth is he is preventing supporters from a public hearing by not posting this bill for a hearing. Without a hearing the bill cannot move on. He has never responded in writing to any of my many requests to post this bill. Please see the article below. This was recently printed in the NY Times and in fact this same Senator is qouted in the article.
If anyone reading this post cares to call or write this Senator (as a survivor of childhood abuse)and help him understand, please be my guest. If you are from New Jersey then please let him know and if your not...so what, he still needs to hear from victims! If anyone is interested in helping Muldoon or myself in our respective states than by all means please join us. Muldoon, if there is anything I can do please let me know...I would be glad to contact your state law makers and I do have a few friends in MN. I am also glad to hear you are making progress....most states have moved quickly to change and mend laws...not so here in NJ. The Catholic Conference has lobbied these Senators agressively not to change this law or they would face MANY lawsuits. Anyway here is the article to which I was refering.
January 9, 2003, Thursday, Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section B; Page 5; Column 5; Metropolitan Desk
LENGTH: 704 words
HEADLINE: Judge Throws Out Lawsuits Against Boychoir School
BYLINE: By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO
A New Jersey judge has dismissed two lawsuits against the American Boychoir
School, where dozens of former students say they were molested as children
by the choir director and other employees. The judge ruled that as a
nonprofit institution, the school could not be sued for acts that injured
children, "no matter how flagrant that conduct may be."
In a decision issued on Monday, Judge Jack Sabatino of New Jersey Superior
Court ruled that New Jersey's Charitable Immunity Act prevented victims from
suing the Princeton-based boarding school, although they could sue
individual employees who abused them or did not try to stop abuse.
Noting that lawmakers and the courts had interpreted the law as granting
nonprofit groups broad protections, Judge Sabatino wrote, "This court is
constrained to hold that the act insulates charitable organizations from
liability for any degree of tortious conduct, no matter how flagrant that
conduct may be." He ruled that "contentions that employees and agents of the
American Boychoir School acted willfully, wantonly, recklessly,
indifferently -- even criminally -- do not eviscerate the school's legal
The decision affects two suits against the Boychoir School by men who
accused Donald Hanson, who ran the school's choir from 1970 to 1982, of
molesting them as children.
In one suit, John W. Hardwicke Jr., 45, a White Hall, Md., resident who
attended the Boychoir School from 1969 to 1971, said he was molested by Mr.
Hanson and three other employees, from a headmaster to a cook. In the other
suit, Douglas Palmatier, who started at the Boychoir School at the age of 9
in 1971, said he was raped by Mr. Hanson over the next eight years.
Beyond those two suits, however, Keith Smith, the lawyer for Mr. Hardwicke,
said more than a dozen former students had contacted him in recent months
and were watching the Hardwicke case to decide whether they would sue as
well. In addition, another dozen alumni who spoke to The New York Times last
year said Mr. Hanson and other employees at the Boychoir School molested
them in the 1970's and 1980's.
Mr. Hardwicke said he was "absolutely stunned" by the judge's decision and
planned to appeal. "I was really taught, and truly believed, that the courts
were interested in justice, that the legal system was interested in
protecting the rights of victims," Mr. Hardwicke said.
His wife, Terri, who was also a plaintiff in the suit, said: "It's
unbelievable that there were ever laws passed that would so abandon the
victim. I just don't know how these people sleep rendering these decisions.
It just leaves us so devastated."
Jay Greenblatt, the lawyer for the Boychoir School, said that while the
decision protected the school, Mr. Hardwicke could still press his suit
against Mr. Hanson and other school employees. "I think it's terrible that
Hanson or anyone else who might have inappropriately molested this boy get
away with anything," Mr. Greenblatt said.
Mr. Hanson, who left the school in 1982 after admitting molesting students,
was served with the Hardwicke suit at his mother's house in Canada. He has
not responded to it, and further efforts to locate him have been
unsuccessful, Mr. Smith said.
Since April, a bill to end charities' immunity from prosecution for sexual
abuse by employees has remained in the New Jersey Senate Judiciary
Committee. Michelle Jaker, a spokeswoman for State Senator Joseph Vitale,
the sponsor of the Senate bill, said the Catholic Conference has lobbied
heavily against efforts to weaken the law.
In a telephone interview, Senator William L. Gormley, the Judiciary
Committee co-chairman, said flatly, "The bill isn't going to be moving." Mr.
Gormley said he opposed the bill because it would open the gates to lawsuits
for acts that were decades old. "I don't see the support for, in effect,
retroactively affecting the status quo in New Jersey," Mr. Gormley said.
A dispirited Ms. Hardwicke said that New Jersey institutions like the
Boychoir School "ought to come with warnings: 'We can starve them, beat
them, torture them, leave them naked out in the rain, and you can't do
anything about it. You'll have no legal recourse.' " http://www.nytimes.com
If anyone cares to contact him...here is his info below. He represents voters in south Jersey....Atlantic City area. Tell him to POST BILL S-843 for a hearing and stop allowing these institutions to further abuse these victims who have already suffered too much. This bill would remove thier immunity ONLY in cases of the sexual molestation of a minor.
Senator William Gormley
108 Hamilton Mall
4403 Blackhorse Pike
Mays Landing, New Jersey 08330