This is as bad as it gets, the big story at the New York Times about sexual abuse in the ultra orthodox community in Brooklyn and the local District Attorney , and this article about a father effectively excommunicated from the community when he reported the sexual abuse of his child.
At the urging of Agudath Israel of America, the DA, who is an elected official, agreed that allegations of child sexual abuse should be directed to his office or to the police only after being vetted by a rabbi. He also agreed not to publish names of suspects, as is usually done. It’s all legally abetted and politically motivated cover-up for sexual abuse.
To be sure, this kind of abuse and cover-up is not restricted to religious communities. How often, how many cases per year, doe it happen that universities with top rated sports programs cover up sexual assaults involving student athletes, with the coaches and/or administration refusing to direct allegations to the local DA and police? Usually this all happens under the radar, and things get pretty much hushed up.
Perhaps much more is at stake with these kinds of cases involving religious communities, which are held by their own leadership, their own members, and frequently by outsiders, even critical ones, to a higher authority. At the most simple level, religious communities are supposed to take care of their members, when it’s all about protecting a hierarchy and its reputation. This much is obvious.
Much less obvious is the way cases like this make you wonder about recent arguments by conservative political philosophers, Jewish and Christian, about law, politics, and “religious freedom.” These include claims about the inseparability of religion and politics, the good citizenship of religious communities, the priority of religious commitments over civic commitments, and the priority of religious law over secular law.