Bill to make clergy mandatory child abuse reporters advances

Associated Press [New York NY]

March 1, 2023

By Associated Press

A bill that would require clergy members to report child abuse or neglect in Washington state has cleared the Senate.

The state Senate passed Senate Bill 5280 unanimously Tuesday.

Sponsored by Sen. Noel Frame, D-Seattle, the measure would require clergy to report sexual abuse allegations to authorities unless the information was received in a context protected by clergy-penitent privilege, such as a confessional setting.

Washington is one of only a handful of states in the U.S. that do not list clergy as mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect.

Frame has been open about being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She said the abuse ended only after she told a teacher who was a mandatory reporter. The Associated Press does not publish the names of sexual abuse survivors without their consent.

“This subject is personally very important for me,” Frame said. “Mandatory reporters play an important role in protecting children, which is why teachers and others who have close relationships with children have to take on that reporting responsibility. Faith leaders have similarly trusted relationships with children in their communities and should share the same responsibility.”