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If a parent was a murderer or child molester is it against Halacha to report them to the authorities and or testify against them?

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  • you can always take someon to bet din regardless if they are a parent, and laws about taking them to secular court would be the same as if they weren't a parent.
    – Esther
    Jul 28 at 20:24
  • This question is ambiguous regarding whether the authorities to report to or the court to testify in are Halachic institutions or not. The ideal answer would probably address both angles.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 29 at 12:26

3 Answers 3

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Well if you’re wondering if it would be forbidden because of a violation of kibbud av v’em, there’s no need to worry about that. Our sages learn that in Vayikra Perek 19 the pasuk says אִ֣ישׁ אִמּ֤וֹ וְאָבִיו֙ תִּירָ֔אוּ וְאֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַ֖י תִּשְׁמֹ֑רוּ. This poses the question why are Shabbat and respecting your parents in the same pasuk? The answer is that if you’re parents tell you to go as far as breaking Shabbat (or doing anything assur at that), there is no obligation to listen to them (so basically if they tell you to break Shabbat you are forbidden to even though they’re your parents). So kal v’chomer if your parent is a murderer or a child molester there is certainly no prohibition to testifying against them because what they’re doing is assur

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  • But they’re not telling you to do something assur.
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 28 at 21:12
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    @Chatzkel but if you don’t need to break Shabbos to honor your parents, I would say al achat kama v’kama you don’t need to protect a murder (your parent) to honor them. Murdering is one of the 3 יהרג ועל יעבר so it’s even more stringent to break than Shabbos. So if your parent murdered someone they need to be brought to justice if you know they did it. They committed a sin and must be punished. Take this case- if your parent asked you to lie in court and testify that they didn’t kill X because they were with you that night, you can’t do this because of the above pasuk. So too here… Jul 28 at 21:16
  • There is a difference between doing something and staying out of it. The source you brought is a case where the parent tells him to transgress a mitzvah. Here the parent didn't say anything. Who says he should get involved? he is not even believed as a witness as he is a relative.
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 28 at 21:19
  • @Chatzkel yeah that was another point but I didn’t wanna bring it up to overcomplicate things because the question I presumed was about only whether it violates kibbud av in a secular court nowadays, but yeah being a relative would invalidate the status of being an עד. But still even though the dad didn’t tell his son to commit anything in the question, I would still believe you can’t be passive and allow it to slide, for don’t our sages teach us that passivity is action? Jul 28 at 21:23
  • And yet, if one sees their father doing something wrong, they are not allowed to tell him "Dad that is wrong" they must be circumspect and say "Doesn't the Torah say such and such". I would say saying testimony would be worse than telling Dad he is wrong straight out which is prohibited.
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 28 at 21:26
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Rav Menashe Klien in Mishne Halachos 16:58 brings from Rav Elyashiv, Rav Waldenberg, and Rav Shlomo Zalman that molesting has a halacha of a rodef.

Therefore, there is a difference if the action was already done and it just a question of getting punished, or if there is an active suspicion that the act is still ongoing or will continue in the future.

If the action was done and the issue is simply a punishment, then Beis Din would be the only recourse.

If there is an active possibility of it continuing then they would be considered a Rodef and it would be permitted for someone to report them to the authorities. Presumably, if a child was the only one available to report it, being that they are considered a rodef, it would be permitted.

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  • Permitted --> required
    – Heshy
    Jul 28 at 22:39
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Many relatives of the defendant are exempt from testifying: Father, uncles, brothers, sons, nephews, stepfather, father-in-law, brothers-in-law, sons-in-law [Sanh. 3:4], and first cousins [Yad, Edut 13:3; Sh. Ar., ḥM 33:2]. If the relative is a woman, her husband may not testify [Yad, Edut 13:6; Sh. Ar., ḥM 33:3].

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  • These sources don't say they are exempt from testifying, but rather that their testimony is invalid
    – Double AA
    Jul 28 at 22:56
  • I believe I answered the OP's question. The court will not summon or listen to someone whose testimony is invalid. Jul 28 at 23:30
  • @DoubleAA the Gemara recounts a story of an ed echad who came to testify knowing he would not be accepted. He received lashes for Lashon Hara since he knew his testimony was invalid and therefore just hearsay. (Zingad Mangid....) One should not just come say things if they will not be accepted as valid witnesses.
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 29 at 3:15
  • @Chatzkel as you know in some contexts testimony from an eid echad is used. My point is if you don't know what those are, go to court and talk to them. Don't assume you are categorically exempt as this answer seems to imply. Especially in a case of a murderer/abuser where it's almost certainly letoelet to tell the court from a choshen mishpat siman 2 perspective
    – Double AA
    Jul 29 at 3:31
  • The question asks about reporting to authorities and/or testifying and doesn't specify whether the authorities or courts involved are Halachic. This answer addresses a relatively narrow slice of that space - testifying in a Halachic court regarding matters that require formal testimony from two male witnesses. That's narrow enough to be potentially misleading for this question.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 29 at 12:31

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