We the undersigned clergy and religious leaders write this letter to urge you to move HB 1947 from the Judiciary Committee to the Senate without delay.
Although we come from a variety of Christian traditions and theological positions, one thing we all agree on is that the sexual abuse of a child is a great sin, as well as a crime, and that survivors deserve the opportunity to seek justice and hold those who harmed them accountable as provided in HB 1947.
As religious leaders, we have witnessed the great suffering of victims of child sexual abuse, including the long term impact to their physical, emotional, relational, economic, social and spiritual well-being. Like soldiers returning from war, we know that survivors can suffer from PTSD for decades. We have learned from mental health experts and our own experiences that many do not share their stories until well into mid or even late life. For too long, Pennsylvania’s laws have denied older survivors access to the courts to seek justice and, if their claims are found credible, be vindicated. We are reminded of the widow (Luke 18:3) who persisted in asking for justice. The time has come to grant that to survivors.
Survivors who come forward in this way will also serve to protect today’s vulnerable children by public identification of the offender if the bar is met for criminal charge, or for civil pursuit. As religious leaders, we do not wish to demonize those who sexually offend, but we do strongly believe they must be held accountable and face consequences by secular authorities, as well as by those of us called by God to protect the most vulnerable among us from harm.
Too many times, the church at large has been in the news for its failure to protect children. We grieve the harm this has done not only to the reputation of the church, but to the Lord Jesus Christ we serve.
We seek to repair this harm as we work to prioritize the safety of children, healing and justice for survivors, and compassionate accountability for those who offend. We are united in our desire to ensure safe communities of faith and to provide a safe haven for all members of our congregations.
We ask that you not only support, but champion, this legislation, as it moves into the Senate.
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