North Dakota Senate withdraws bill requiring mandatory reporting for clergies
By Hayley Boland
January 29, 2021
The state Senate has withdrawn a controversial bill that would have included clergies as a mandatory reporting body for child abuse.
The current law requires various groups like teachers, child care workers, doctors, and police to report child abuse or neglect when they see it, but there’s an exemption for clergy members when serving as a spiritual adviser.
Senate Bill 2180 would have included clergies as mandatory reporters.
The bill received pushback from members of the Catholic Church, for fear it would “unseal” the Catholic confession.
“This makes the state, I should say, a moderator of our Catholic faith and practice and not the Catholic Church,” said Bishop David Kagan of the Bismarck Diocese.
Bill sponsor Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, said that wasn’t the intention of the bill.
“I’m not saying that a priest has to report somebody who confesses to abusing, I’m saying that there must be some way that they can figure out how to observe that child and family and see if there’s an opportunity to intervene in a positive way,” said Lee.
The Senate withdrew the bill Friday afternoon, but Senator Lee says awareness of the issue of child abuse is what’s important.
“If Senate Bill 2180 has been successful in raising the issue so that everyone sees his or her role in ending child abuse, this brouhaha will have been worth it,” said Lee on the Senate floor.
Senator Lee says she hopes the conversation around the prevention of child abuse continues.