In the May 30, 2005 issue of New York Magazine there is a story that included details about Lawrence Lessig being repeatedly molested by the choir director when he was a choirboy. The article covers the history and the current lawsuit where another former choirboy, John Hardwicke is suing the school with Lessig's help. As a friend of Larry's, it was painful to read the article and it was even more painful trying to figure out what to say to him.

Larry blogged about it initially a few days ago and there were a stream of supportive comments. Today, he posted about what we should do to prevent this kind of thing in the future, and I believe this is a critical message to get out. He writes about the law in New Jersey that immunizes charitable institutions from "negligence" in the hiring of a teacher. This is what the defense is using against the claims of responsibility for the abuse. There is a bill that has been introduced to remove that immunity, but leaders from the Catholic Church have opposed the change. I often get criticized for meddling in American politics, but I think this is an important issue. There are links on Larry's post to pages about what you can do. I think the Church should be ashamed.

10 Comments

What a horrible thing!

From IM with John Perry Barlow

John Perry Barlow - Why is it painful knowing what to say to him? This reveals a Japanese sense of shame. Larry didn't do anything wrong.


Joi Ito - maybe painful is the wrong word, but I had no idea what to say to him. It's not like there was anything I could say that would make anything any better... but I guess part of it might be from the sense of shame

John Perry Barlow - I expect I'll say something like "Jesus, Dude, I'm sorry that happened, but I'm glad you have what it takes to stand up and do something about it, especially from a position of celebrity."

Joi Ito - yup. that would be the right thing to say, but I wouldn't have come up with that

John Perry Barlow - Because you have a Japanese sense of shame. Which is only appropriate.

Joi Ito - hmm... probably an accurate assessment

John Perry Barlow - I mean you are Japanese, easy as that is for both of us to forget.

Joi Ito - yup

John Perry Barlow - Feel free to include this exchange in the comments...

Joi Ito - OK

Re: your IM with John Perry Barlow:

I don't know Larry well enough to react with the same intensity as I imagine his friends have, but when one of my own friends reveals something like this, my reaction is much the same as yours, i.e. pain (sympathy pain?), or difficulty in finding the right thing to say about it. I'm not so sure it's because of your "Japanese sense of shame" (I'm a native of the US), but perhaps a general shame that humanity can be so awful, or something else entirely.

Re: the post itself:

Thanks for pointing this out; I think I missed this even though I read Larry's blog. It appalls me that the Catholic Church opposes the change to the law, though I'm not surprised.

I dont know about the Catholic Church opposing changes to "the law" but this school is NOT a Catholic School, and there was no Priests involved in this as far as I can read it. I read the ABS school site and it is a NON-SECTARIAN school.

Taken from this site it is the School who is fighting changes to the law:

"The problem may be that the school doesn't believe it is responsible for the safety of its students. Currently, before New Jersey's Supreme Court, fighting several sexual abuse lawsuits, the school argues that it is shielded from civil responsibility for all claims of negligence -- even criminal negligence -- under the state's Charitable Immunity Act."

Is there a link to where the Catholic Church is fighting against changes to the law? Ill continue to dig to find them as well.

jm

I meant to post, that no institution in any form should have a shield, no matter what, when it comes especially to protecting our children. As a Father of two, I know the feeling of hoping that the teachers will not harm my children, either physically or emotionally in any way. And I hope that all private and state/federally run programs have an oversight council to investigate these types of allegations, no matter how small, to ensure we dont have such occurences happening again.

Mr Lessig is a strong individual, one who has overcome quite a lot, and if I was his father I would be quite upset at the school, and all such organizations. I do not know how I would control myself, and I pray I never have to be put in such a position.

I am appalled at the level of involvement by the School Personnel. I wonder, but have no facts, if it does continue today. Like people, hire like people....

Jim, I imagine that the Church is opposing the ammendment of the law because considering their track record, this immunity is in their financial interest to preserve.

From Lessig's blog post:

"Leaders from the Catholic Church have opposed the change. Some of the same leaders, representing the 'Catholic Conference of Bishops,' also filed a brief in our case asking the Court to affirm the 'absolute' immunity -- even for intentional acts -- that the trial court had found."

I found who it is:

"The New Jersey Catholic Conference (NJCC), the lobbying arm of the state's Catholic bishops, is urging lawmakers to set time limits on how far back the legislation would apply retroactively."

jm

Muy bueno tu weblog... Great your weblog.

salu2 desde Chile.

What really makes my blood boil is the "conspiracy of silence" among not only the priests, but also among the parishioners, to "not rock the boat".

The very first thing that should be done in any future abuse cases -- once witnesses have come forward -- is for the parish -- the people who the priest was SUPPOSED to serve, instead of betraying them -- must shun the offender. Permanently.

The churchgoers should simply refuse to let the offender lead them in prayer. To knowingly do otherwise would be -- I can't put it any other way -- evil.

-A.R.Yngve

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