SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The nonprofit group behind MormonLeaks called on lawmakers Wednesday to remove the “clergy exemption” from Utah law when it comes to mandatory reporting of child abuse.
Currently in Utah, members of clergy are not required to report child abuse if it is confessed by the perpetrator. The Truth and Transparency Foundation, the nonprofit behind MormonLeaks and FaithLeaks, has released documents it said showed that “clergy typically and intentionally avoid reporting abuse to law enforcement in states where they are required to do so…”
The group specifically named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as one of the entities where Utah clergy members often fail to report abuse if it is confessed.
“We, at the TTF, believe that any exemption of clergy members in mandatory reporting laws is an affront to the safety and well-being of abuse survivors…,” the group said Wednesday.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages members and leaders to “be alert and diligent and to protect children and others against abuse.”
The Church’s Handbook 2: Administering the Church also counsels:
Church leaders and members should fulfill all legal obligations to report abuse to civil authorities. In some locations, leaders and teachers who work with children and youth are considered “mandated reporters” and must report abuse to legal authorities. Similarly, in many locations, any person who learns of abuse is required to report it to legal authorities.
TTF sent an email to state lawmakers in Utah Wednesday, imploring them to protect survivors by doing away with the clergy exemption in Utah law, which says:
The notification requirement….does not apply to a member of the clergy, with regard to any confession made to the member of the clergy while functioning in the ministerial capacity of the member of the clergy and without the consent of hte individual making the confession, if:
(a) the perpetrator made the confession directly to the member of the clergy; and
(b) the member of the clergy is, under canon law or church doctrine or practice, bound to maintain the confidentiality of that confession.
The current law also states clergy members are required to report abuse if they learn about it from any source other than the perpetrator. TTF has started a petition about the issue.
Many states have similar exemptions for clergy members.