Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes has announced that he’ll push for a state law adding rabbis and other religious leaders to the list of professionals required to report allegations of sexual abuse to the authorities. Presumably, this has nothing to do with the Jewish Daily Forward reporting that Hynes was hiding the names of ultra-Orthodox Jews accused of sex crimes and the ensuing New York Times exposé.
Hynes became the subject of intense media scrutiny after he refused to release the names of 85 ultra-Orthodox Jews arrested for sex crimes because of the “very tight-knit and insular” nature of the Brooklyn community. He was accused of having a far too cozy relationship with leaders of the religious community, and being more lenient with ultra-Orthodox Jewish abusers than others accused of sex crimes. Now Hynes is changing his tune. Last week, he revealed plans for a crackdown on witness intimidation in child sexual abuse cases in the ultra-Orthodox community (an idea proposed by former Mayor Ed Koch, who publicly criticized Hynes), declaring that rabbis and other religious leaders should be mandatory reporters of abuse.
Twenty-six states require clergy to report sexual abuse to law enforcement, and since 2003 there have been several attempts to pass similar legislation in New York. However, they’ve been met with opposition from some religious organizations, including the Roman Catholic Church, because the proposed bills would have forced the groups to report previous allegations of abuse.
Hynes told the Times that he would work with the New York State district attorneys association to draft the legislation. Fortunately, it won’t be too hard to cobble together since Assemblyman John J. McEneny, who first introduced such legislation in 2003, already has a bill written up. Hynes said he wasn’t aware of that, but would talk with McEneny about the effort. Religious leaders have said that they could support the current legislation, which wouldn’t require them to report previous allegations, so there’s hope that the bill might finally be passed.