RACE, RELIGION + SOCIAL JUSTICE

Bills requiring clergy to disclose abuse won’t be considered

Feb 28, 2023, 9:06 AM

Several bills that require clergy to report child abuse won't be heard in Utah's legislature this y...

File: Inside the Utah Capitol Rotunda, February 2, 2022. (Paul Nelson)

(Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY  —  Several bills that require clergy to report child abuse won’t be heard in Utah’s legislature this year. 

Sen. President Stuart Adams, R-Salt Lake City, acknowledged that everyone wants to stop child abuse. But he said he believes mandatory reporting would force clergy into a difficult situation, namely, either violating the freedom of religion or introducing the chance that the clergy member could be punished.

“I think they have a first amendment right of religious protections and I don’t think I want to put a clergy in a spot where they have to be excommunicated or thrown in jail,” said Adams.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, introduced H.B.115 Child Abuse Reporting Revisions. It would have deleted provisions that exempt a member of the clergy from being required to report child abuse and neglect. The House Rules Committee read the proposal in January, but it went no further.

S.B.72,  sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Pitcher, D-Salt Lake City, would have modified the clergy exemption related to reporting child abuse. The bill provided this exemption if the clergy member had reason to believe that abuse or neglect was ongoing or likely to occur again. S.B.72 went no further than a reading by the Senate Rules Committee in mid-January.

Correlation between anonymous reporting and clergy abuse bills

Majority Leader Ann Millner, R-Ogden, argued reporting goes down when abusers can’t go to the clergy anonymously.

“Most of the research shows that if people aren’t able to come to them, for fear of being reported on, they’re not able to provide the help and support they need,” said Milner. “In fact, the reporting goes down.”

Adams said he and other leaders met with a “broad-based” group of religious organizations before deciding not to move the bills forward. However, those religious groups weren’t specified. 

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Bills requiring clergy to disclose abuse won’t be considered