Bill punishing sex abuse by clergy awaits Gov. Ivey’s signature

WZDX - Fox 54 [Huntsville AL]

April 29, 2024

HB125 targets adult church leaders, staff, and volunteers who make sexual contact with minors, similar to legislation directed at teachers.

House Bill 125, which targets adult church leadership, staff members, or volunteers who make sexual contact with minors, passed both sections of the Alabama Legislature this past week and now awaits a signature into law by Gov. Kay Ivey.

HB125’s text makes it “unlawful for a member of the clergy to commit certain sex acts with an individual under 19 years of age, or a protected person under the age of 22 … under certain circumstances.” The bill also allows for penalties under the law.

This would include ordained, licensed, or commissioned minsters, pastors, priests, or rabbinical leaders. Sexual intercourse or sodomy of a minor would be a Class B felony. Solicitation, harassment, or enticement of a minor under the guidelines of the law would be a Class C felony, as would the transmission of obscene or sexual matter to that minor.

Violations could be punishable with a prison sentence of up to 20 years. If signed into law by Gov. Ivey, it would go into immediate effect.

The bill is similar to other legislation targeted at educators and school staff in Alabama. One, SB143, would revoke a person’s teaching certificate on conviction.

Those bills come amid several recent announcements of school staff in North Alabama arrested and charged with inappropriate behavior with students. Arab High School football coach Lee Ozmint was arrested April 25 on misdemeanor charges of distributing or soliciting obscene material from a student under the age of 19. Ozmint has since resigned from the district’s employment.

Just days prior to that arrest, a female Madison County School System was arrested following the discovery of explicit messaging between the woman and a student. The minor was reportedly found in the woman’s car during the her arrest. MCSS said it fired the employee shortly following her arrest.