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A spokesman for Markey, Mike Armstrong, said the assemblywoman was emboldened to push for abolition of the statute because opposition to the bill appears to have lost momentum. Armstrong said the perception that the act targets organized religion has been weakened by recent prosecutions related to abuse scandals at secular universities and schools, and in organizations like the Boy Scouts of America.
In past years, the New York State Catholic Conference has lobbied hard against the act, bolstered by Agudath Israel of America, an ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization. But the Catholic Church itself has faced blows to its reputation as scandals continue over its failure to confront sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy during past decades.
A spokesman for the Agudah declined to comment on the latest version of the act. In an interview with the Forward last November, Rabbi David Zwiebel, the Agudah’s executive vice president, said his organization supported criminal and possibly civil prosecution of individuals. But the group strongly opposed any legislation that opened up institutions to lawsuits because of the acts of an employee.
“That’s where you are talking about the potential of really destroying some very, very precious assets, which are our schools and shuls,” Zwiebel said.
Hamilton is set to testify before the committee that such claims are “irresponsible.”
In a copy of her testimony, provided to the Forward ahead of the hearing, Hamilton said civil litigation in the United States has led to only two bankruptcies, both voluntary and intended “to protect assets and avoid trials that would have revealed the Roman Catholic bishop’s secrets regarding their role in endangering children.”
In her book, “Justice Denied,” Hamilton said there “should be no arbitrary and rigid time frame that permits the multimillionaire parent or wealthy institution that fostered the sex abuse to believe their assets are wholly protected from the victims they destroyed.
“Certainly, no perpetrator or institution that aided that perpetrator should be secure in the knowledge that jail time and fines are beyond the survivor’s reach.”
Contact Paul Berger at email@example.com or on Twitter @pdberger