Sex abuse and midterm elections

by Dennis Coday

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A few days back, I wrote that the Catholic church clergy sex abuse scandal was raised as in an issue in a Missouri Congressional race. I wondered out loud if this was the first election in which sex abuse by clergy was raised and I asked readers to check that for me.

The readers replied. Here's two more races:

The Minnesota Attorney General race

Lori Swanson, the incumbent, is accusing challenger Chris Barden of "making a career out of being an expert witness for accused sexual molesters" and being "on a 20-year 'mission' to discredit certain types of mental health care, particularly repressed memory syndrome."

"In one case, according to documents filed by Swanson's campaign, Barden defended a Catholic priest who claimed he was wrongly accused by a man who fabricated memories of child abuse. When the Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld the priest's conviction earlier this year, Barden said that "future reviewers will cringe at this science-illiterate opinion."

Barden heatedly disputed Swanson's charges, saying she was continuing a pattern of smearing her opponents.

Wisconsin U.S. senate race

Republican candidate Ron Johnson, testified before the Wisconsin State Senate on behalf of the Green Bay Diocese Finance Council in opposition to a Child Victims Bill, which would have made it easier to go after child predators. Under Wisconsin current law, many children do not come forward until after the statute of limitations has expired -- this law would have made exceptions in such circumstances.

Not surprisingly, a spokesman for Democrat incumbent Russ Feingold took a shot at opponent for his stance on the issue. "People want a senator who is going to fight for victims of abuse, not lobby against them," said John Kraus, a senior strategist for the incumbent Democrat. "If he won't stand with children who are victims of abuse, who will he stand with?"

In response, Johnson emphasized that the finance committee meets only three times a year and focuses primarily on balancing the budget. He resigned from the post to run for the Senate.

He wanted to emphasize that he has no sympathy for clergy sex offenders.

"Actually, had I not been put on the clock (in the state Senate), I would have made another statement," Johnson said. "I can't think of a penalty that would be too harsh for these guys. I don't think people that prey on children deserve a second chance. I guess God can give them one, but I sure don't think our courts and legal system should."

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