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Church opposes bill allowing sex abuse victims more time to sue

6:37 PM, Sep 3, 2013   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - Is the state of California waging a war against the Catholic church?

Some say yes, and others say for good reason.

"There's no war on anybody," Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said. "It's a law that allows people to have justice against people who molested them. How simple can you get?"

Right now, a victim only has until the age of 26 to seek punitive damages.

Senate Bill 131 changes the statute of limitations only for 2014, giving victims of sexual abuse a 1-year window to sue, regardless of when the molestation happened. In 2002, a similar law was written, opening a 1-year window in 2003 allowing abuse victims of any age to sue, regardless of the statute of limitations.

During the 2003 window, the Catholic church paid $1.2 billion in settlements.

However, there were problems with that law and the California Supreme Court ruled some victims couldn't sue.

Beall said SB 131 fixes those problems.

Opponents argue the 2013 bill only allows victims to sue private organizations, like the Catholic church, the YMCA and others. That's because under state law, public entities, like schools and district-run day cares, cannot be sued.

"This law that was passed in 2002 that the Supreme Court ruled against, simply deals with private companies that aid and embed molesters, so that's the issue," Beall said.

Opponents are working hard to defeat this bill, airing commercials in the Sacramento media market, even putting messages in church bulletins urging parishioners to write to their lawmaker.  

But there is the argument of the past; that $1.2 billion spent in settlements in 2003.

"This has nothing to do with [the $1.2 billion in 2003 settlements]," California Council of Non-Profit Organizations spokesperson Kevin Eckery said. "This has everything to do with the victims."

"A step in the right direction would be having all victims with the ability to get some kind of justice," Eckery added.

Beall disagreed, saying he would like to see the laws even harsher.

"I think there's a lot of things that I would do," he said. "Like the states of Illinois and Florida, which eliminated all statute of limitations for child molestation. We should eventually get to that point."

News10/KXTV

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