Thursday, May 24, 2012

DA wants Rabbis to be mandated reporters

NYTimes   The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, said Wednesday that he would push for state legislation to add rabbis and other religious leaders to the list of professionals required to report allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities.

The move comes as Mr. Hynes, the city’s longest-serving district attorney, has come under intense scrutiny for his handling of sexual abuse cases in the politically powerful ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. A recent article in The New York Times showed that Mr. Hynes did not object when Agudath Israel of America, an organization representing various Hasidic and other ultra-Orthodox factions, told him last summer that it was instructing adherent Jews to get permission from a rabbi before reporting allegations of sexual abuse to the authorities. 


  1. Good idea... But let's see how he gets this past the catholic church. They have the seal of the confessional, i.e. even if a pedophile admits to pedophile acts in confession, the priest will not report him and go to jail rather than reporting him...

  2. DA Hynes' standing in my eyes is going way down. What he proposes is blatantly unconstitutional. It imposes special duties on religious functionaries because they are religious. Such a law would be enjoined in about five minutes.

    Only solution is to make everyone a mandated reporter, which is now the law in some States. IF everyone is so concerned about child abuse, is there some reason the NY Legislature won't pass such a law?

    1. There is nothing unconstitutional about a list of mandated reporters and adding clergy to that list does not impose a special duty on religious functionaries.

      The Catholic Church is not as powerful a force as it used to be and when it comes to abuse, they are reluctant (for obvious reasons) to use all their clout.

    2. James: Are you a constitutional scholar? A law which singles out clergy based on the fact that they are clergy discriminates against religion, and violates the 1st amendment, same as a special tax on clergy. And yes, such a law does impose a "special duty" on clergy -- they are obligatged to do something that most citizens are not. The fact that some non-religious functionaries (teachers, doctors, psychologists) might also be on the list does not make it any more constitutional. (SUch a law also probably violates the Establishment Clause, because it would require the State to determine what is or is not a religion or a clergy.)

      As I said, NY could make everyone a mandated reporter. Under Employment Division v. Smith, clergy and religious people have no right to ask for a special exemption of a generally applicable law.

      Is there some reason NY does not want to do this?

      (I can guess the answer to my own question: NY does not want to turn anyone who hears of abuse into a criminal for not reporting it. That could include, say, a parent or relative, who might decide not to subject his or her child to the system.)

  3. This would be a disaster. Talk about giving the fox the keys to the chicken coop!

    1. I don't understand your comment. People come to rabbis and other clergy because they want to or because they feel obligated to by their religion or by the community. That is already happening today.

      Requiring them to report merely prevents them from covering up abuse.


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