Victims urge debate, though Utah child sex abuse reporting bills may be dead

KUTV, CBS-2 [Salt Lake City UT]

February 25, 2023

By Brian Mullahy

[Via KJZZ]

Several plans to change state law on clergy reporting of child sex abuse, including one that would remove the “clergy exemption,” seem dead at the Utah State Capitol — though two child abuse victims, one of them a rabbi, urged the measures get a hearing in the waning days of the legislative session.

“In terms of the sex abuse that I endured, I think it gives me perspective on what we’re talking about,” said Rabbi Avremi Zippel, “of the long-term impact of this sort of behavior.”

Zippel’s former nanny was convicted of sexually abusing him when he was a boy.

“It’s my hope they get a hearing,” he said of the bills, adding he supports ending the exemption for clergy, even if the abuse is learned in confessions. “From my perspective as a faith leader, there is nothing more sacred than the life of a child.“

Deondra Brown of the famous piano group Five Browns — who, along with her sisters, revealed abuse at the hands of her father when she was a child — echoed the call for debate.

“I’m always on the side of making sure children are protected,” she said. “I feel this is a topic that needs to be discussed, that needs to be had, regardless of where you fall.”

The reporting bills have not moved from House and Senate Rules Committees, which assign measures for discussion and a first vote by lawmakers.

Bishop Oscar Solis of the Catholic Diocese, put out an “urgent call” weeks ago for Catholics to oppose the measures.

In a letter, he said children “must be protected,” and “applauds the motivation” of the bills, but underscored how seriously the church takes confidential confession.

“For centuries the Catholic Church has required priests to maintain the Seal of the Confessional, and breaking this seal means automatic excommunication for a priest,” Solis wrote, putting priests in the position of violating church law or state law.

2News also contacted a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who said the church “had not weighed in on these pieces of legislation.”