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Roman Polanski and the Challenge of Forgiveness

Roman Polanski and the Challenge of Forgiveness

One of the most fascinating events for those interested in the relationship between religion and secularism occurred in 1997. In 1997, Geimer publicly forgave Polanski. This event has caused some scholars of religion to reflect on complex questions: Does forgiveness, a nominally “Judeo-Christian” practice, have a place in the American law system, or in the public sphere? Or is this too simple a reduction? Some might argue that forgiveness is a universal practice, one practiced across many different cultures. In either case, there seems to be a strong aversion to substituting punishment with forgiveness in the U.S. (with perhaps the exception of a presidential pardon). Our law, in general, centers around a retributive form of justice, one in which criminals have to “pay” for their crime with their time, labor, or life. Forgiveness flies in the face of this kind of justice.