In 44 States, Clergy Don't Have to Tell Police When Someone Confesses to Child Sex Abuse
Under current Utah law, members of the clergy are not required to report confessions of child sex abuse. Utah State Rep. Angela Romero wants to change that.
Romero is drafting a bill that would require any religious leader in a position of authority to become a mandatory reporter—an individual required by law to notify authorities of any admissions of abuse. Teachers, coaches, doctors and others who work with children are often mandatory reporters. Failure to report can be considered a criminal offense.
In a statement on Facebook, Romero said the bill was not targeting any particular religious group, but was rather intended to protect children from harm.
"Too often cases of sexual abuse involving ecclesiastic leaders have been covered up and the victims are denied justice," she wrote. "We already have laws that mandate reporting whenever anyone learns about abuse of a child or a vulnerable person. Ecclesiastic leaders need to be held to the same standard."
If the measure passes, Utah would be one of only seven states that explicitly require priests, ministers, rabbis and other religious leaders to report confessions of child sex abuse to law enforcement.
"My concern is getting somebody off the street that shouldn't be on the street, regardless of if they confessed to a clergy member or regardless if someone they know told a clergy member," Romero told Fox 13. "Regardless of what that religious institution is, it needs to be investigated by law enforcement."
In most states, clergy have ecclesiastical privilege, a right similar to attorney-client privilege allowing them to refuse to disclose any admission made in the context of a confession.
Currently, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia are the only states that have laws requiring clergy to be mandatory reporters.
The statutes are a little murkier in Tennessee, Indiana and Connecticut: Priests have been allowed to voluntarily break their priest-penitent privilege, but it's uncle...