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Monday, November 26, 2012

The Wisdom and the Moral Authority

By Sean Aaron Cruz

Portland, Oregon

“Please tell Sean that I also wish him the best. I have also followed his career and believe his personal experience has given him the wisdom and the moral authority necessary  to make a real difference in making Oregon safer for our children.” –Judge Jim Fun, Washington County Circuit Court, January 24, 2007

I received this message from Judge Fun’s judicial assistant. He was writing in regard to the work I had done on the issue of child abduction since my four children disappeared into Utah in a Mormon kidnapping in 1996. Each year, more than 200,000 U.S. children are abducted by their own parents, family members or persons known to the family, as in church-sponsored abductions.

Judge Fun knew the issue and my family’s case very well. In 1997, he had been the Assistant District Attorney who prosecuted the 1st degree Custodial Interference case against my former wife, which came to trial nearly a year and a half after my kids had disappeared, and who were still being held incommunicado in Utah at the time of trial. He had noticed during jury selection that the defense referred to a Washington County LDS church roster, and that there were a number of Mormons on the jury. You know how that turned out.

But Judge Fun was writing about what I had done since then, after the failures of both the criminal and family law systems in the wake of the abduction of my children, with that experience and with that moral authority:

The first and most important thing I accomplished was to stay alive, to survive.

I’m a writer, an essayist and a blogger, so I wrote and I blogged, posting a couple of hundred essays over the years. I had alerted and informed Senator Avel Gordly about the issue long before she hired me to serve as her legislative staff in 2003. That year, I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Joint Ways and Means Public Safety Subcommittee, and Senate President Peter Courtney appointed the Senate President’s Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abduction to examine the issue and report its findings to the 2005 legislature.

I testified before the Task Force in 2004, describing how both the family law and criminal law systems and an order for joint custody had failed to protect my children and my family. The fact is these systems fail in non-stranger abduction cases far more often than they succeed, which explains the high numbers.

The Task Force found that the experience of abduction by any person is harmful to the child, and as abusive as any other form of child abuse. The consequences of this abuse are life long.

In 2005, Senator Gordly assigned me to lead the workgroup on her landmark Senate Bill 1041. In that legislative session, I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Rules Committee and before the House State and Federal Affairs Committee as we moved SB 1041 through the building.

The bill went through ten major rewrites on its way to passage on a dramatic, unanimous House vote on the last day of the 2005 legislative session. It immediately became known as Aaron’s Law, in memory of my late son Aaron Cruz, who had died in Payson, Utah, earlier that year, a direct consequence of his abduction and forced immersion into Mormonism.

With Aaron’s Law (ORS 30.868), Oregon became the first state in the nation where child abduction creates a civil cause of action, providing kidnapping victims with new tools to see justice served, and real deterrents to abducting a child in the first place.

Now, in 2012, Aaron’s Law is seeing its first usage in the Kyron Horman case, first such case in the nation, a civil lawsuit for the crime of custodial interference in the 1st degree.

I’ve written extensively about the particulars of Aaron’s Law at and

Earlier this year, I took my son Aaron’s name as my own middle name.

So, all this to say that many of my readers who know me through my work on issues other than child abduction and who are unfamiliar with the story of the abduction of my children may think that I might be unfair or exaggerating where I refer to Mormons and Mormonism, but I want you all to know that I am speaking from experience and with moral authority.