Churches Can Support Justice For All

Over the past decade, controversy has swirled in Albany regarding whether—and how—to address the heinous crime of child sex abuse.

Sex offenses against children should be punished with appropriate severity, and survivors of such crimes deserve compassion and support. While New York criminal law contains a variety of provisions that punish this crime, and while significant efforts have been made to prevent it, there is disagreement over the appropriate statute of limitations in civil cases relating to child sex abuse. Specifically, some contend that existing New York law is unjust because it only allows child sex abuse victims to sue for money damages until their 23rd birthdays; it is argued that this statute of limitations has not allowed victims adequate time to bring claims. In addition, some advocates believe that civil liability for child sex abuse claims in certain circumstances should extend beyond the perpetrators themselves to the employers of those perpetrators.

Bill S.63-A-Hoylman/A.2872-A-Markey would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil claims relating to child sex abuse; it would also provide for a one-year “lookback” in which victims with previously-expired claims could bring lawsuits. While NYCF supports efforts to assist survivors of child sexual abuse and bring perpetrators to justice, we believe that “lookback” provisions are unfair to potential defendants, including churches and Christian ministries. First, these provisions could give individuals a powerful incentive to file false and malicious lawsuits, whether to profit from favorable settlements or to advance vendettas against persons or groups deemed to be controversial. Second, these provisions could place churches and other nonprofits in the untenable position of having to defend against lawsuits based on actions alleged to have been committed decades ago. Third, these provisions would open the floodgates to potential liability for private organizations, but would leave intact notice of claim provisions that insulate public entities from such liability.

For these reasons, NYCF opposes Bill S.63-A-Hoylman/A.2872-A-Markey. We urge Members of the New York State Legislature to instead support Bill S.3933-Lanza/A.5418-Cusick, which would extend criminal and civil statutes of limitations applicable to public and private entities in abuse matters without including a “lookback” provision. The churches in New York’s Evangelical community can support justice for all