TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, the prime sponsor of S-540, legislation which would remove a charity’s immunity from lawsuit when the charity knowingly or negligently put children at risk for sexual assault, issued the following statement regarding a rally today on the Statehouse steps in support of charitable immunity reform:
“New Jersey is a national model for progress in so many key issues affecting the lives of our residents. We were among the first states to ban assault weapons, we were among the first to promote stem cell research, and we were the first to have Megan’s Law to protect children from sexual predators.
“Yet today, New Jersey is falling far short of protecting all children from all sexual predators. Some wolves wear sheep’s clothing, and charitable immunity requires the State to protect this flock from litigation.
“Charitable immunity is the shield behind which many charities have been deflecting lawsuits aimed at them for negligently putting children in harm’s way. However, New Jersey should end this practice of rewarding sexual predators and their enablers, and put the focus on helping victims of childhood sexual assault to begin the healing process.
“Considering the psychological scars and lifelong trauma of child molestation, charitable groups should not be exempted from the same scrutiny we demand of schools and other businesses, simply because they do good work the rest of the time. We need to require employer responsibility, when an employee who interacts with children as part of his or her job abuses the position and endangers that child’s mental health and welfare.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Assembly to begin to show them the light, so to speak, on charitable immunity reform. The simple fact is that very few of us in life are complete saints or complete sinners, and sometimes bad decisions are made, but when those bad decisions result in the sexual assault of a child, we must have accountability.”