Ron Johnson, the Religious Right and Tea Party backed GOP challenger to incumbent U.S. Senator Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) seems to care more about the powerful institutions such as insurance companies and the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay than the child victims of pedophile priests.
Johnson made himself clear while testifying on behalf of the Diocesan Finance Committee in opposition to the Child Victims Act. This bill would, had it been enacted, have removed the statute of limitations for childhood victims of sexual assault thus allowing them to file civil law suits against the alleged perpetrators. The views of finance committee member Johnson are now raising serious questions about candidate Johnson.
Over the last week I have been following Jud Lounsbury’s Daily Kos diaries on Johnson. Johnson’s opposition to embryonic stem cell research and abortion rights makes him a natural ally for über-conservative members of the Catholic hierarchy and the Religious Right. Beyond that, he is a millionaire businessman who opposes government functioning as a guarantor of the rights of individuals against moneyed interests as Lounsbury shows, step by step. As Johnson stated in his testimony: “I think it is extremely important to consider the economic havoc and the other victims [the legislation] would likely create.”
Lounsbury then surfaced what may be Johnson’s underlying intentions:
…the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that while Johnson was testifying, the Green Bay Diocese was attempting to kill a law suit against them, arguing that the victims had exhausted the time limits of the statute of limitations.
In abuse cases, statutes of limitations have a different consequence than other actions where a potential plaintiff openly sits on his right to file suit (i.e.,, a dispute over property boundaries or for the specific performance of a contractual term). As one of the bill’s sponsor put it:
Most sexually abused children are molested by family members or authority figures, and the pressure is strong not to disrupt their own home, school or church. Young victims often are threatened by adult perpetrators if they reveal the crime, and the shame and confusion children feel is frequently enough to keep them silent. As adults, it may take victims years to come to grips with their experience and build the courage they need to identify their abuser and begin civil or criminal action. By the time they’re ready to do so, the statutes of limitations may have expired; it may be too late for justice to be done.
Writing this past June in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, columnist Daniel Bice noted that “Johnson, a Lutheran, sided with Catholic Church leaders in opposing the so-called Child Victims Act before a state Senate committee in January. The bill failed to win approval.” Bice wondered, “Why did a guy considering a run for statewide office decide to jump into a controversy that cuts across party lines? What upside could there be?”
Bice couldn’t answer that, but he observed:
In an interview last week, he [Johnson] said he was first contacted on the issue by Deacon Tim Reilly, director of administration for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay. Though a Lutheran, Johnson is a big backer of Catholic schools and was serving on the diocese’s finance council at the time of his testimony.
The proposal would have eliminated the statute of limitations for future victims of child sex abuse and opened a three-year window for past victims.
It was opposed by the insurance industry and church organizations, including the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which argued the bill could bankrupt it. The measure had the support of several police organizations, social workers and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.
Candidate Johnson seems more interested in protecting the Church and the insurance industry than the victims of pedophile clergy placing the interests of powerful institutions before the well-being of children. These institutions and their advocates like Johnson apparently believe that even child rape is okay as long as you can get away with until the statute of limitations runs out. Indeed, they not only seek exemption from the rules that apply to everyone else, but to ensure that they have friends in high places to ensure that that continues to be the so.