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3/6/2003 4:32:00 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
Nevada--Oppose Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting for Pastors

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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March 6, 2003

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

The recent sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church have provoked a
legislative reaction across America. State after state has filed
legislation that would force pastors and priests to report evidence
of child abuse. There are some states where a legislative change is
needed, because pastors are not permitted to report abuse due to
state law, even if they believe God requires them to report it. In
our experience with child abuse situations, we believe parents need
to be able to talk privately to their own pastors about the problems
they have at home without fearing an immediate investigation by
social services. At the same time, we believe that pastors must be
free to do what God commands them to do, even if it means reporting
child abuse to the authorities.

Senate Bill 223 would change Nevada law to force pastors to report
all evidence of abuse or neglect, even if they only learn of the
problem in a counseling session with a parent. This bill would cut
parents off from the one source of free, vitally needed help that is
available. Because of this, we urge homeschoolers to oppose Senate
Bill 223.

ACTION REQUESTED

1. If you belong to a church, please contact your own pastor to
inform him of this bill.

2. Please immediately contact the members of the Senate Judiciary
Committee and urge them to oppose Senate Bill 223.

Judiciary Committee members:

Mark Amodei (Chair), mamodei@sen.state.nv.us
Maurice Washington (Vice Chair), mwashington@sen.state.nv.us
Mike McGinness, mmcginness@sen.state.nv.us
Dennis Nolan, dnolan@sen.state.nv.us
Dina Titus, dtitus@sen.state.nv.us
Valerie Wiener, vwiener@sen.state.nv.us
Terry Care, tcare@sen.state.nv.us


BACKGROUND

American law recognizes certain legal "privileges" that keep a person
from being forced to testify in a court case. The best known is the
attorney-client privilege, which prohibits an attorney from
disclosing the confidences of a client. Attorneys who reveal the
secrets of their clients can and should be disbarred. At common law,
there were a number of other privileges, including the husband-wife
privilege, the doctor-patient privilege, the priest-penitent
privilege, and so forth. When America adopted the Child Abuse
Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in 1973, a new system of
mandatory child abuse reporting was instated that began to erode
these privileges. The doctor-patient privilege was abolished when
child abuse was at issue. The husband-wife privilege no longer
applies when a child has been abused. Until now, the priest-penitent
privilege has remained, but the sex abuse scandals that have rocked
the Roman Catholic Church are changing that.

Massachusetts, where the sex abuse scandals have been worst, had a
law prohibiting priests from disclosing any confidential
communications. Thus, when a priest confessed his criminal activities
to his superiors in the church, they were prohibited by law from
reporting him to authorities. Massachusetts has changed that law to
permit, but not require, the reporting of such abuse.

Unfortunately, too many states have reacted to this scandal by going
to the opposite extreme. Instead of prohibiting any disclosure of
child sexual abuse, legislators are demanding that pastors report any
suspicions of abuse. This has very serious consequences, since it
makes it dangerous for parents to go to a pastor when they are
struggling with the challenges of child rearing. Child abuse is a
sin, and parents desperately need wise and godly pastors who can help
them repent and do better. A law that turns every pastor into a
mandatory child abuse reporter cuts parents from the help they most
need.

Home School Legal Defense Association believes that pastors should be
free to help parents in need without necessarily reporting them to
the authorities. Yet Pastors must also be free to deal biblically
with abusers who refuse to repent. By working together, homeschoolers
and other citizens can make the child abuse laws work better for
everyone.

Very truly yours,

Scott W. Somerville
HSLDA Staff Attorney

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