FFRF hails Colorado laws combating child sexual abuse

Priest Confessional Comic

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is applauding Colorado lawmakers for allowing survivors of child sexual abuse to pursue justice — delayed but, hopefully, not denied.

Often, abuse is not reported until many years after it occurs, and the abusers can escape consequences because of a statute of limitations. Earlier this year, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law SB 211-073, a bill supported by FFRF to remove this “get out of jail free” card, eliminating the statute of limitations for child sexual assault. However, that change in law only applied proactively — it did not revive claims that were already barred by the statute of limitations. Now, Polis has signed SB 211-088, which will give survivors of past abuse a chance at justice through the courts. Beginning in January of next year, the new law will allow those survivors to sue institutions that covered up abuse or failed to take reasonable steps to stop it.

This pattern of abuse and cover-up is especially common in churches, where the myth of divine authority combined with the desire of so many of these entities to maintain a “pure” image allows predator priests to get away with abuse for decades while the church refuses to contact secular authorities. Because this pattern became so apparent in the Catholic Church, many states and countries around the world have initiated investigations into the problem, invariably discovering that it is even worse than previously feared.

Church abuse is not limited to Catholic churches, of course, which is why the recent investigation in FFRF’s home state of Wisconsin is aimed at uncovering all sorts of clergy abuse. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has reportedly refused to cooperate fully in this probe, asserting that Wisconsin law does not allow the Department of Justice to bring cases against old abuse. The lack of cooperation highlights the need for updating such laws, and Colorado is showing Wisconsin how to do that.

“Churches and other institutions that cover up abuse should not be able to escape charges just by running out the clock,” comments FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “Other states should take note and follow suit.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate. It has more than 35,000 members and several chapters all over the country, including over 1,000 members in Colorado, with chapters in Denver and Colorado Springs.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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