October 26, 2004

Senate Bill 100: Forcing Pastors to Report Child Abuse

Senator Robert F. Spada (R), District 24.

This bill would make pastors report some suspicions of child abuse or neglect.

06/10/2003 Introduced, Sent to Senate Committee on Reference.
06/11/2003 From Senate Committee on Reference: recommended referral.
06/11/2003 To Senate Committee on Judiciary and Criminal Justice.
06/17/2003 In Senate Committee on Judiciary and Criminal Justice: heard in Committee.
06/24/2003 From Senate Committee on Judiciary and Criminal Justice: recommended as amended.
06/24/2003 In Senate. To third reading.
06/25/2003 In Senate. Read third time. Passed Senate. To House.
06/25/2003 To House Committee on Rules and Reference.

Action Requested:
Please email Representative Bob Latta at district06@ohr.state.oh.us and the other members of the Criminal Justice Committee to indicate your opposition to SB 100. The subject line of the email should be "SB 100," and it should be addressed to the specific representative you are contacting. Make sure your email is short, and extremely courteous. You may want to mention one or both of the following "talking points" in your message.

  1. Pastors are part of the solution to child abuse, not part of the problem. Let pastors do their job!
  2. This bill would make priests and pastors "agents of the state." Don't make clergy into spies!

Criminal Justice Committee members
District74@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Stephen Buehrer (R)
District62@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Jamie Callender (R)
District90@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Thomas (Thom) Collier (R)
District71@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. David Evans (R)
District77@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Keith Faber (R)
District76@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Mike Gilb (R)
District98@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Timothy Grendell (R)
District30@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. William (Bill) Seitz (R)
District04@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. John Willamowski (R) (Vice Chair)
District08@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Lance Mason (D) (Ranking Minority member)
District15@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Dean DePiero (D)
District48@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Edna Brown (D)
District07@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Edward Jerse (D)
District11@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Annie Key (D)
District10@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Shirley Smith (D)
District33@ohr.state.oh.us Rep. Tyrone Yates (D)

Ever since the scale of the abuses in the Catholic Church became public, state legislatures have been "cracking down" on clergy. HSLDA members have managed to defeat or improve legislation in a number of states. Now it is Ohio's turn.

Senator Spada, the chief sponsor of this bill, is a well-respected Republican. His initial bill would have made all pastors report any suspicions of abuse or neglect. The Ohio Council of Churches, which includes the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, the United Presbyterian Church, the Episcopalian Church, and several other similar denominations, was able to persuade Senator Spada to make some changes to his bill. Senator Spada's staff believes that the Ohio Council of Churches now "supports" this legislation. Our sources within the Ohio Council of Churches have not expressed any "support" for the bill, but have withdrawn their open objection to it in its current form. That means this bill, if it is to be successfully opposed, must be opposed by "grass roots" activity.

Pastors, if they are doing performing their duties correctly, are "tuned in" to a great deal of information of which the police are unaware. Pastors are God's agents, sent into a world of sin to redeem lost souls. Pastors routinely hear about horrifying situations, yet go back to work, day after day, because the Gospel is the solution to sin. Senate Bill 100 tries to "tap into" this "inside information" that pastors have in order to protect additional children. Unfortunately, turning pastors into spies for the government will do far more harm than good.

Under current law, pastors and priests are free to report child abuse or neglect if they choose to do so. This bill will have no effect on the pastor who believes that he can thus serve God and his fellow man by reporting his suspicions. The only direct affect that this bill will have is to apply criminal penalties to pastors who do not believe they can report a suspicion in good conscience. Since this bill sets up a conflict between a pastor's conscience and the criminal law, it is fraught with constitutional problems. The best way to avoid this constitutional train wreck is to contact Representative Latta's office to indicate your opposition to SB 100.

HSLDA's Position:
Oppose. This bill protects the confidences of a person who confesses child abuse to a priest or pastor, but priests and pastors should not be made mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect.

 Other Resources

Ohio--Update: SB 100 - Requiring Pastors to Report Child Abuse   Jan-29-2004

Ohio--Calls Needed to Protect Religious Liberty and Parental Rights   Jan-16-2004

E-lert—Forcing Pastors to Report Suspected Child Abuse   Aug-29-2003

Bill Text

Bill History