Survivor organizations alarmed by loophole exempting clergy from mandatory reporting in new bill

SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests [Chicago IL]

January 25, 2024

By Tim Law and Mary Dispenza

Backtracking in proposed legislation keeps children at risk

On Thursday, January 25th, the Human Services Committee of the Washington state Senate will hold a public hearing on SB 6298 , “an act relating to the duty of the clergy to report child abuse or neglect.” This new bill has been introduced following the failure of previous legislation (SB 5280 ) that included an amendment that made members of clergy mandatory reporters of child abuse, without offering an exception for information about a child that may be at risk for abuse that was obtained during private pastoral communication.

 Under pressure from Catholic bishops , state Senate lawmakers have introduced a new bill that bypasses the amendment to the previous legislation brought by the House Human Services, Youth, & Early Learning Committee, by putting the clergy exemption back into the bill. If they succeed, clergy will be effectively exempt from reporting child abuse and neglect to law enforcement.

 Seattle-based anti-abuse advocate and Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) board member Tim Law said, “The vague and verbose language in this new bill effectively obscures any mandate that clergy must report child abuse. It gives the impression that the state is taking action to make churches a safer place for children, while upholding the exemption that has given clergy in Washington state a free pass to legally avoid reporting sexual crimes against children.”


SB 5280

Washington clergy still not required to report child abuse, May 22, 2023

Clergy abuse survivor and Northwest Director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Mary Dispenza, remarked, “Child protection laws must be guided by the principle of what is in the best interest of the child – not what is in the best interest of the adult abusing that child or the organization that employs them.”

ECA and SNAP urge Washington state lawmakers to amend the current legislation by adding a clause that abolishes the clergy-penitent privilege in cases where a member of the clergy is made aware of potential child abuse or neglect.


Tim LawECA Board 206 412 0165Mary DispenzaSNAP Northwest 425 941 6001