Committee passes bill requiring clergy to report abuse

Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) Members of the clergy would be required to report child abuse under a measure that passed the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, introduced the bill in response to media reports of clerical sexual abuse.

It would add clergy members to eight categories of employees, including teachers and doctors, who are required to report suspected child abuse. Failure to report such cases is a misdemeanor.

The bill would not require clergy to report suspected cases of child neglect. That is required by the other mandatory reporters,'' but some members of the State Affairs Committee did not want to require that of clergy.

Rep. Jim Holm, R-Fairbanks, said requiring clergy to report anything they suspect might meet the state's definition of neglect could have a chilling effect on a pastor's ability to minister, particularly to the poor.

What is considered neglect in one part of the state might not be in another area, said Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer.

It's a sticky wicket because we want to protect children,'' Holm said. But he added, Part of pastoring is helping folks get through the hard times in their lives without passing judgment.''

House Bill 92 would exempt clergy from having to report abuse they learn about during confession in the Catholic church or in similar confidential settings in other faiths.

Representatives of several religious groups have testified that they support the bill, as long as that provision remains in it.

The measure now goes to the House Health Education and Social Services Committee.

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