Efforts to defeat California Senate Bill 131 are ramping up in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, including an education/writing campaign outlined on the archdiocesan webpage: www.LAFaithfulCitizen.org as well as grass roots parish initiatives. Last spring, Our Lady of the Angels Region Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark alerted St. Timothy parishioners in West Los Angeles during a Lenten talk about the proposed bill under consideration in the California legislature that would suspend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse against private and non-profit employers — but not public employers — during the 2014 calendar year. Bishop Clark and his assistant, Deacon Scott Palmer, have been distributing information to parishes about SB 131 since April and encouraging pastors to discuss (a) how it does not protect all children, (b) discriminates against Catholic and other private schools, and (c) puts the educational and social service ministries of the church at risk. “I am concerned that what SB 131 is proposing is to only protect a very small percentage of the school population,” said Deacon Palmer, noting that his four grown adult children who attended public schools wouldn’t be covered under SB 131. “Any law proposed should be representative of all people. We should do everything to protect children and to allow adult victims of sexual abuse to come forward, but we shouldn’t segregate who those children are.”Team SB 131A group of volunteers at St. Timothy, encouraged by their pastor, Father Paul Vigil, have conducted letter-signings at their parish and neighboring parishes requesting legislators to vote “No” on the measure.Team leader Michelle Morrison estimates nearly 1,000 signed letters have been collected from St. Timothy parishioners already and faxed to signees’ legislative representatives. A total of 712 signed letters have been collected over the past three weeks by Team SB 131 in consecutive weekend visits to Good Shepherd (Beverly Hills), St. Basil (Los Angeles) and St. Jerome (Westchester) in the Our Lady of the Angels Region.“Reaction has been pretty positive,” said Morrison, St. Timothy’s director of religious education. “Of the people who stop and listen, 90 percent of them are signing.” After a weekend collecting signatures with the team that includes members of the Knights of Columbus, Morrison spends an average of two days during the week faxing letters. Each letter is faxed to both the Sacramento and field offices of the senator and assembly member representing the signee’s district in the state legislature. She told The Tidings that Team SB 131 hopes to collect signed letters at parishes up until the bill’s Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing on Aug. 14. The proposed legislation passed the Senate on May 29 and the Assembly Judiciary Committee on June 18.Private institutions targetedFollowing the homily at all the liturgies last weekend at St. Jerome, Msgr. Norman Priebe, pastor, read from the letter available for parishioners to sign on their way out after Mass.“It is not fair that this legislation does not offer any protection for children who were sexually abused in public schools, foster homes or other public institutions, while it targets Catholic Church institutions and private schools and other private employers,” the letter states. “About 92 percent of California’s children attend public schools — including most Catholic children. If the Legislature truly wants to protect children, then why does SB 131 specifically exempt public schools, where the vast majority of California’s children are educated?” The letter also notes that SB 131 does nothing to increase penalties against the actual abusers of children.“The consequences will be dire for us if this bill passes,” Msgr. Priebe told the assembly. “This is so important. I urge you to take up this action today as a responsible citizen. In our democratic society, we have a right to speak out, especially when something is quite unfair and discriminatory and not truly helpful as this legislation is.”Alan Bernstein, who signed the letter after the July 14 7:30 a.m. Mass, told The Tidings: “I think that we all should be fair in our decisions and our legislature should recognize that, so I’m here to stand up for the Catholic church and other private institutions just to make sure that everything is on a level playing field.”“Justice should be maintained at any time whether in the civil government or in the church — wherever, and it’s always good for our people to understand the need that justice should prevail,” said Father Samuel Okafor, who presided at the early morning Mass. “Whatever is done should be universal. If something is good, it should be for everybody, and if it is bad, it should be removed.” As he was helping at the parking lot letter-signing table, Kevin McLean, Grand Knight from St. Timothy’s Knights of Columbus Council 13555, said parishioners were thanking Team SB 131 members for coming out to St. Jerome in efforts to defeat the proposed bill.“This is a priority for our (Knights) council,” said McLean. “It should be for all councils. This affects us all.”Fellow Knight Jorge Maza, manning the vestibule letter-signing table, said their volunteers are “on fire” about informing people about SB 131. “It’s very rewarding doing this,” said Maza, who noted that Team SB 131 will be heading to Visitation Church in Westchester this weekend. Team members may also be traveling to the Dioceses of San Bernardino and San Diego in the weeks ahead.“I really believe that this is going to make an impact,” added team leader Morrison.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0719/sb131/{/gallery}