U.S. Senator Al Franken has announced that he will soon resign. The public reason he gave for his resignation is that he has been accused of sexual misconduct. The real reason, however, may be something quite different.
For how does a man, even a U.S. Senator, defend himself after he has been accused of sexual misconduct in a society that assumes guilt rather than innocence when a person has been accused of such an offense? A society that ignores important safeguards of the Constitution including that we are innocent until proven guilty.
I don’t know what Sen. Franken did or didn’t do. I don’t know if his accusers are telling the truth.
What I do know is that I am frightened by what I see happening in our society today. What I see is a rush to judgment in the court of public opinion by a group of U.S. Senators calling for Sen. Franken’s resignation even though he has disputed some accusations against him and has not had the opportunity to face those who have accused him in court. What I see are elected officials, who swore under oath to protect the Constitution, ignore the Constitution by choosing a one size fits all path for anyone accused of any type of sexual misconduct .
This rush to judgment and failure to distinguish between accusations and proof is evidence of the legal environment in our country today, which can be compared to past eras when the protections of the U.S. Constitution were denied to Japanese American citizens and others. The legal environment in our country today can also be compared to past eras in other countries such as France where people were led to the guillotine because they were born of nobility.
While it is true that no one in the U.S. is being led to the guillotine today, something almost as dangerous is occurring because individuals accused of sexual misconduct are being denied the protections of the U.S. Constitution. Those individuals have a right to face those who accuse them in a court of law. They also have the right to be declared innocent until and unless it can be proven that they are guilty of the conduct of which they have been accused. Finally, if they are found guilty in a court of law, they have the right to be sentenced appropriately by a judge, not by their peers.
It is time for the United States of America to wake up! It is time for the United States to provide all of its citizens, including those accused of sexual misconduct, with the protections that flow from its Constitution.
— by Janice Bellucci
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