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Proposed laws in D.C. and Va. would require clergy to report sexual abuse

Jan 2, 2019

By Michelle Boorstein

In response to recent Catholic Church clergy sex abuse scandals, lawmakers in the District and Virginia say they will soon propose legislation that adds clergy to the list of people mandated by law to report child abuse or neglect.

Both efforts hit at the hot-button intersection of child protection and religious liberty, but lawmakers are expected to give them an open reception at a time when recent sexual abuse scandals in churches and others involving athletes have prompted conversation about broadening legal responsibility to extend beyond positions such as teachers and doctors.

The ideas under consideration by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine include not exempting confidential conversations for any mandatory reporters, possibly including those that occur in the Catholic Church’s confessional. Texas, West Virginia and a few other states do not exclude the confessional in mandatory reporting laws, but it has been a stumbling block in many other places.

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