In the wake of the Penn State-Jerry Sandusky controversy, a California assemblyman has answered a Newport Beach attorney and retired state senator's call for legislation targeting the tax-exempt status of nonprofits that foster, enable and cover up child sexual abuse. The proposed bill would strip nonprofits of their tax-exempt status if they are caught concealing, fostering or failing to report such abuse, while also seeking to improve reporting requirements in the Golden State.
"The deliberate cover-up of the monstrous crimes against children at Penn State demands an immediate review of California's sexual abuse reporting requirements," explains Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who is introducing the bill, in a statement.
"The call for action to deter nonprofits from covering-up, fostering, or failing to report abuse is clear," he continues. "Nonprofit organizations at all levels--universities, faith-based or after-school programs--should be held accountable for their actions."
Lara, who is openly gay, says that as a boy he was sexually abused by an older relative--and that it changed the future politician's life forever.
"As a victim, I know firsthand the devastating effects of abuse," he says in his release. "The safety and recovery of the victim must be our focus and ultimate priority."
It was the recent reporting on Penn State and the Boy Scouts of America failing to report sexual abuse and even helping to conceal it that prompted Lara to take a fresh look at current California law, which requires mandated reporters pass along child abuse allegations to law enforcement or appropriate county agencies.
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"While one would assume that nonprofit organizations, especially those that work with children, have our children's best interest at heart, experience has taught us that this is not always the case," Lara says. "Time and time again, we have heard of reports of nonprofits that conceal and/or foster sexual abuse. To prevent further lives from being damaged and to deter nonprofits from concealing reports, legislation is needed to clarify and improve current sexual abuse reporting requirements."
His legislation comes on the heels of a call for a similar law last month by Martha M. Escutia, an East Los Angeles Democrat who served in both houses of the California Legislature from 1992 through 2006 before co-founding the private law practice The Senators (Ret.) Firm in Newport Beach, where she specializes in representing abuse victims and their families.
- Martha M. Escutia, Retired Legislator-Turned-Newport Beach Lawyer, Targets Tax-Exempt Status of Abuser Nonprofits in Wake of Penn State Scandal
Escutia wants state legislatures and the U.S. Congress to pass laws revoking the tax-exempt status for any organization determined by a criminal or civil court of law to have fostered the abuse of children, concealed the abuse of children, or failed to report knowledge of child abuse or neglect to law enforcement authorities. She includes offending churches and religious institutions in her desired legislation.