Proposed Victims Rights Bills Would Dramatically Reform Wisconsin's Child Protection Laws

August 7, 2019

Proposed Victims Rights bills would dramatically reform Wisconsin's child protection laws

Clergy Mandated Reporting Act would require all clergy to report suspected abuse

The Child Victims Act would eliminate civil statute on child sex crimes, open three year window for past abuse

CVA endorsed by Democrats Evers and Kaul during 2018 campaign, provisions supported by then Republican Governor Walker


Wisconsin Senator Lena Taylor, Representatives Chris Taylor and Melissa Sargent will be joined by survivors of childhood sexual assault, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, (WCASA), the Wisconsin Chapter of The National Association of Social Workers (WI-NASW), and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to introduce two major victim rights and child protection bills.


August 7th at 11:15 a.m.


State Capitol, Senate Parlor


Wisconsin’s legislators who are leading advocates for children’s rights will be unveiling two bills Wednesday that would significantly reform Wisconsin’s mandated reporting law on child sex abuse and eliminate the civil statute of limitations on child sex crimes.

The Clergy Mandated Reporting Act would require clergy be placed with thirty other Wisconsin professions to report child sex abuse when discovered in the course of their professional duties. Although clergy were included as reporters in 2002, a special “exemption” was added which allows clergy to keep known and suspected child abuse “secret” if their religious “tenants, traditions and practices” and these "need not be in writing”. The law also allows clergy to keep child abuse secret if they obtain it under virtually all pastoral communications or circumstances, effectively allowing church officials to cover up any known or suspected abuse by fellow clergy members.

The Child Victims Act would eliminate the civil statute on child sex abuse and allow victims in Wisconsin to file cases against perpetrators and officials in both secular and religious organizations who covered up those crimes. Under current Wisconsin law, any official in a religious organization who can be proven to have covered up for child sex crimes, secretly leave abusers in ministry, or transferred known abusers to new assignments cannot be brought to civil court for negligence. In a 5-4 controversial 1995 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, Pritzlaff v Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the court ruled that victims of sex crimes by clergy are barred from filing cases in state courts based on the 1st amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Wisconsin is the only state in the country that provides sex offender clergy and their supervisors this legal immunity.

During the 2018 campaign, all Wisconsin Democratic candidates for Governor promised to support the passage of the Child Victims Act, including current Governor Tony Evers and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul. Then Republican Governor Scott Walker also voiced his support for both provisions of the bill.

The two bills would provide protection for children and support victims rights in a fair and uniform manner across all state organizations, secular and religious. It would require all professions charged with the education and welfare of children to report abuse. For religious organizations it will extend child protection guarantees and parental rights while upholding the religious liberty of children to worship and practice their developing religious beliefs without the threat posed to them by abusive clergy known by their superiors to be a criminal threat to their safety.


Peter Isely, SNAP Founder, Milwaukee (414.429.7259,

Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director, Chicago (517-974-9009,

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is








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