Friday, March 23, 2012

Rav Sternbuch: Calling police for Jewish owned house of prostitution

This tshuva has a clear relationship to calling police for a sexual predator

Teshuvos v'Hanhagos (2:727): Question: A Jew is running a house of prostitution in the community, is it permitted to report him to the police?

Answer: It seems obvious that that if the reporting to the police closes the operation, then not only is it permitted to report it but it is a mitzva to do so for two reasons. 1) He is considered a rodef (pursuer) after illegal sexual activity (ervah). Just as with someone who is trying to kill another or even one who only causes another to die - he has the status of rodef. Here also he is considered a rodef after prohibited sexual activity (giloi arayos). Furthermore since many transgress prohibited activities because of him it is also beneficial to the community (migder milsa) to inform on him so that the receive a severe punishment. Thus it is permitted to inform on him ןif he is causing adultery and he will be imprisoned so he will no longer be able to do evil anymore.

However if reporting him does not stop his activities then it requires further analysis to determine if it is permitted to permit the very serious prohibition of mesira (informing) - even against such a evil person.

Nevertheless if at the time he is in jail the house of prostitution is closed down or its activities stopped or even if they are merely reduced - it would appear there is no problem at all to report him. This is true even if reporting him causes him to receive a long prison term -  since today imprisonment is not considered life threatening. Therefore it is obligated to call the police.

Look at the Taz (Y.D. 157:8) who says a counterfeiter has the status of rodef because he is endangering the community and this applies to any other bad activities which are done on purpose. So surely in our case where he is endangering people's spiritual welfare. However it appears that even the psak of the Taz only applies if the reporting actually brings about an improvement. However if someone else will replace him and thus the activity is not stopped - he can not be reported for nothing as is explained in Gittin (7a) that even bad people are not to be reported to the government if it doesn't improve the situation.

This that you claim that only the house of prostitution is only for goyim. First of all it is also prohibited for us to cause goyim to commit adultery and to assist them to sin in this manner. He is also endangering the Jewish people because this is against the secular law. Furthermore it is a incredibly bad chillul haShem.  In addition who is determining and guarantying that only goyim enter? Therefore it is obvious that this claim is not valid.

If it is possible to warn him in a manner which doesn't endanger the person issuing the warning then it is definitely obligated to warn him first. However if it is impossible because of the possibility of being harmed - then he is to be reported to the police without warning in order to stop the immorality and the chilul hashem according to the ruling of the Taz cited above.

6 comments :

  1. He is considered a rodef (pursuer) after illegal sexual activity (ervah). Just as with someone who is trying to kill another or even one who only causes another to die - he has the status of rodef. Here also he is considered a rodef after prohibited sexual activity (giloi arayos).

    Can this be taken to the next step with the assumption that any individual who engages in "illegal" sexual activity is a rodef and should be treated as a murderer?

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    1. Rodef is someone who is pursuing another person - either to kill him or to do a sin punishable by death or kares. The question is whether the killing of the rodef is to protect the victim or to keep the rodef from sinning.

      So not all illegal sexual activity makes a person a rodef.

      Even if he is a rodef the law is that you use the minimum force to stop him from sinning. One the person has sinned - unless there is a strong presumption he will sin again in the same manner - he is no longer a rodef.

      Sanhedrin 73a
      MISHNAH. THE FOLLOWING MUST BE SAVED [FROM SINNING] EVEN AT THE COST OF THEIR LIVES: HE WHO PURSUES AFTER HIS NEIGHBOUR TO SLAY HIM, [OR] AFTER A MALE [FOR PEDERASTY]. [OR] AFTER A BETROTHED MAIDEN [TO DISHONOUR HER].1 BUT HE WHO PURSUES AFTER AN ANIMAL [TO ABUSE IT]. OR WOULD DESECRATE THE SABBATH, OR COMMIT IDOLATRY, MUST NOT BE SAVED [FROM SINNING] AT THE COST OF HIS LIFE.

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  2. However if someone else will replace him and thus the activity is not stopped - he can not be reported for nothing as is explained in Gittin (7a) that even bad people are not to be reported to the government if it doesn't improve the situation.

    I understand this in principle, but I have a hard time understanding how in this situation it would apply. First of all, the very fact that someone is arrested and prosecuted for running such a business is itself a deterrent for others to do the same thing.

    Second, it is hard to believe that the police would catch and prosecute one person for doing that, but then look the other way when the second person comes along and does the same thing. Maybe it will take two or three people being sent to jail, but eventually they will get the message to not engage in such activities.

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  3. Doesn't the mishnah seem to be ruling out 'normal' interaction with a prostitute?

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  4. "This tshuva has a clear relationship to calling police for a sexual predator"

    Could you elaborate?

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    Replies
    1. there are a number of reasons why it is permitted to call the police for a predator - one of them is because he is considered a rodef. However as noted in the teshuva there are limitations of utilizing the din of rodef to call the police. One of them is that he must be attempting to commit a sin which is punishable by death or kares. The Tzitz Eliezar has a teshuva in which he says that only an abuser of boys is a rodef but not of girls. Other poskim says that since it is pikuach nefesh - not the sexual crime which makes the predator a rodef - there is no distinction between boys and girls. The action against the rodef also has to be the minimum necessary to stop him. Here Rav Sternbuch notes that if the arrest of the owner has no impact on the operation of the place it is questionable as to whether the police can be called.

      Of course there are alternative justifications to call the police other than rodef such as a public nuisance or mandated reporting which have different parameters.

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