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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Washington

Bill would make WA clergy mandatory reporters of abuse

March 8, 2023 Updated Wed., March 8, 2023 at 4:21 p.m.

By Charles H. Featherstone Columbia Basin Herald

OLYMPIA — A bill currently making its way through the Washington State Legislature would require clergy to report child abuse, neglect or sexual abuse to the authorities, according to a press release from bill author and sexual abuse survivor Sen. Noel Frame, D-Seattle.

Senate Bill 5280, which unanimously passed the state Senate last week, requires clergy to report abuse allegations unless the information is obtained during a confession covered by the clergy-penitent privilege, according to the press release. Currently, Washington is one of seven states where clergy members are not legally required to report abuse allegations.

“This subject is personally important to me,” said Frame in the press release. “I was abused from the ages of 5 to 10 by a member of my own family, a teenage cousin. It stopped when I told a teacher, who then reported it to the authorities and ultimately to my parents.”

Frame said mandatory reporters play an important role in protecting children. According to the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families, medical practitioners such as doctors, nurses, dentists and psychologists are all required to report abuse and neglect allegations, as are school personnel, social workers, daycare providers and law enforcement officers.

“Faith leaders have similarly trusted relationships with children in their communities and should share the same responsibility,” she said.

According to the report on the senate bill, clergy will be required to report any and all allegations of abuse or neglect if the information is obtained outside a confession “made pursuant to the clergy-penitent privilege as provided in statute” to a member of the clergy authorized to receive confession and required by the rules of a particular church organization to keep the confidence of that confession.

The bill is now being considered by the state House of Representatives. If it passes the House, it would move on to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk to be potentially signed into law.

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