POLICE MUST NOTIFY RESIDENTS WHEN
CATHOLIC CHURCH MOVES INTO NEIGHBORHOOD
Controversial "Egan's Law" Expected to Gain Widespread Support
Under a new law designed to protect minors, local police departments will now be required to inform residents any time a known Roman Catholic church moves into their neighborhood.
The law also mandates that Catholic churches register with authorities, wear electronic monitoring devices, and be prohibited from moving to within a half-mile radius of a school.
A follow-up to Megan's Law, enacted by New Jersey in 1994, the so-called "Egan's Law" is named for Cardinal Edward Egan of New York and Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who are both accused of covering up sexual abuse by priests under their authority. Like Megan's Law, Egan's Law is expected to spread quickly to other states, but for parents in towns across New Jersey, it's on the books none too soon.
"Last year, we discovered that a Catholic Church had been in our neighborhood for 30 years! And nobody told us!" said Ruth Harper of Redbrook, N.J. "My sons used to walk by that church every day on their way to school. Even now I shudder to think of what might have happened."
"I always told my kids to steer clear of that place," added neighbor Scott Carlyle. "But that's because there were a lot of strange people going in and out at odd hours, even at midnight on Saturdays. I was worried it was some kind of druggie hangout.
"To think the whole time it was a Roman Catholic Church. Now I know why they had all those stained glass windows —. so nobody could look in."
Critics, however, charge that Egan's Law is unconstitutional, specifically because it relies on religious profiling and is intended to safeguard only one segment of the population: young males. But State Sen. Carmela Truto, a Catholic who co-sponsored the bill, used church doctrine itself to prove only one segment needs protection.
"In the Catholic Church, after 2,000 years, Mary is still a Virgin," she said. "So clearly, they're not interested in girls."
That statement, however, angered Vatican spokesman Edgar Palowski, who said it propagated a common misconception about the church. "This doesn't get reported enough," he said, "but it's a fact that our priests abuse just as many girls as boys."
"Oh. Oh dear..." he added.