Jewish rabbis and other religious officials should be required to report to civil authorities any allegations of sexual abuse against children by people under their charge.
That is a New York state law being proposed by the embattled Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes as he looks to defend himself against accusations that he’s allowed sexual predators to act outside the law, especially those in the ultra Orthodox Jewish community among his constituents.
Hynes currently oversees a special hotline which is designed to allow victims of sexual abuse to report their crimes to his office for further prosecution. Hesitated by fear and intimidation, child victims of sexual abuse by church officials, those victims are often reluctant to step forward with their accusations for fear of their future in the community, which has been almost trained to report these crimes to the church first, which then conducts its own investigation before turning to civil authorities, if they ever do.
The D.A. touts the success of the Kol Tzedek hotline, which he accounts for more than 90 arrests of people accused of child sexual abuse, but a recent media investigation determined that figure may not be accurate and despite that claim, Hynes has continued to defend himself publicly so it appears the public is not satisfied with the results. Just last week, Hynes said he’s established another task force to deal with intimidation of witnesses and victims of child sexual abuse in that community.
In a case decided earlier this week, a state Supreme Court judge added to this fact and said intimidation of witnesses and the family of the victim of the abused led to him sentencing a man to just 20 years-to-life in prison for his crimes against two children when he actually faced hundreds of years for the crimes.
In an announcement on Wednesday, New York Magazine reports Hynes is set to propose a state law that would require rabbis and other religious officials to report allegations of abuse immediately to civil authorities. The magazine adds that 26 states currently have similar laws already in place and that New York has tried several times in the last decade to pass similar legislation but has faced backlash each time from religious organizations. The main reason for opposing this law, they have said, is due to the requirement to report previous allegations. Hynes’ new law is not likely to require that caveat and he believes he can gain the support of religious officials now with his modified legislation.
Hynes has been criticized since taking office in Brooklyn for have a “too cozy” relationship with religious officials in the community, especially related to allegations of sexual abuse. While he has appeared tough on non-religious officials accused of these crimes, charges against church officials have been scarce and his office has repeatedly refused to release names of those accused or those who have settled charges of sexual abuse against them. Currently, he stands accused of hiding the names of at least 85 ultra Orthodox Jews already arrested on sexual abuse charges.