Clergy abuse bill makes progress at committee

Biddeford Courier

April 25, 2019

By Abigail Worthing

A bill that criminally condemns clergy sexual abuse has been unanimously approved by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to move forward for votes in both the Maine Senate and House.

The bill, LD 913 “An Act To Protect the Public from Clergy Sexual Abuse,” makes it illegal for licensed pastoral counselors from engaging in sexual activity with those they are counseling.

Sen. Susan Deschambault (D-Biddeford) sponsored the bill on behalf of a constituent, and introduced the bill during a public hearing on March 29 at the statehouse before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, of which she is cochairman.

“This bill protects the rights of patients who seek counseling from licensed pastoral counselors in the same way we treat patient rights with other licensed behavior counselors,” said Deschambault in an April 22 press release.

The bill was proposed in 2015 with slightly different language, but was indefinitely postponed. Thirteen other states, as well as Washington, D.C., have passed bills banning clergy sexual abuse among adults.

Also on the committee are Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell), Sen. Michael Carpenter (D-Houlton), Sen. Kimberly Rosen (D-Bucksport Rep. Pinny Beebe- Center (D-Rockland), Rep. Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth), Rep. Patrick Corey (R-Windham), Rep. Danny Costain (R-Plymouth), Rep. Chris Johanson (R-Monticello), Rep. Victoria Morales (D-South Portland), Rep. Richard Picket (R-Dixfield), Rep. Lois Reckitt (D-South Portland) and Rep. Braden Sharpe (D-Durham). Reckitt also spoke in favor of the bill.

The bill now faces votes in both the Maine Senate and House. If approved, Gov. Janet Mills will have 10 days to either veto the bill, sign it, or allow it to become law without bearing her signature. Non-emergency laws passed during this legislative session will come into effect within 90 days after the adjournment of legislative session.

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