The Delaware Senate voted 15-0 on Wednesday for a bill that eliminates the two-year civil statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner said she would sign the bill, reported The News Journal.
Senate Bill 29 has been described as the strongest in the nation, providing a two-year period during which victims of abuse, whose cases had been previously barred by the time limit, would be able to make their claims. Public institutions that allowed the abuse to occur through gross negligence also could be sued, but are not subject to the lower standard of proof that private institutions will be held to. The House passed the bill 41-0 Tuesday night.
Catholic League president Bill Donahue had issued a message when news of the bill first broke, suggesting that the bill did nothing to point to the problem of sexual abuse by teachers. His message also highlighted Rep. Greg Lavelle's failed effort to amend the bill so that the state would not be protected from lawsuits by its sovereign immunity. Lavelle (R-Sharpley) has said he would introduce a separate bill to address state institutions.
"The degree of corruption in the Delaware legislature is matched only by the selective indignation its lawmakers have for child rape," said Donahue in his statement. "The legislators are owned — lock, stock and barrel — by the teachers unions. Teachers can grope all they want. They can rape little kids. And now they will be protected by making it harder to prosecute them."
The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington distanced itself from the Catholic League’s statement, issuing its own statement indicating that it had neither authorized nor requested the Donohue’s remarks.
"We consider Mr. Donahue's remarks about the Delaware Legislature and the state teachers union to be irresponsible and regrettable," the diocese statement said.
Jack Polidori of the Delaware State Education Association called the League's message "absolutely outrageous, unfounded, and an insult to the 11,000 men and women that work in our public schools in Delaware. We thank the Catholic Church for its statement."
Lavelle, too, issued a statement denouncing the League's message, saying it "offended and saddened" him.
In view of the way the situation has developed, Donahue issued another message yesterday calling on Lavelle to simply withdraw his bill. Donahue noted that Lavelle, prior to make his comments against the league, had called the league office requesting data on public school teachers who abuse children.
He also remarked on the diocese’s statement against the league. “It remains to be seen how Catholic officials will react when the lawsuits start coming and the public school teachers get to walk,” he said. “Must be a tight-knit club in Delaware.”