Lawmakers push to require clergy to disclose confessions of child abuse

SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Legislators in two Western states are pushing measures that would require clergy members to report confessions of child sex abuse to authorities.

State Sen. Jerry Hill of California and state Rep. Angela Romero of Utah want their states to join about a dozen others in treating members of the clergy the same as numerous other professions - including teachers, doctors and social workers - who are required to inform law enforcement when they learn a child has been abused.

In most states, clergy members are not mandated reporters if a penitent tells them about the abuse in a confession, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Hill and Romero argue the exemptions should be eliminated.

"My concern is not about the perpetrator; my concern is that children are safe," said Romero, D-Salt Lake City, whose bill is in the drafting stage.

Her legislation would not stop abusers from practicing their religion or violate their First Amendment rights, Romero said, because "they can still confess."

Opponents contend mandatory reporting would undermine religious freedom. The Religious Freedom Institute, which has fought Hill's legislation, sa...

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