Remove Clergy Exemption from California's Mandatory Reporting Laws by Passing SB 360

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California State Senator, Jerry Hill has proposed California Senate Bill 360 removing a sweeping clergy exemption from the State’s mandatory reporting laws of child abuse and neglect.

The proposal comes after discussions between the Senator’s staff and the Truth & Transparency Foundation (TTF) in the months of November and December of 2018. The TTF made many California legislators aware of the gaping hole in the law. Senator Hill is the only one able to find the priority to propose the bill.

Currently, California Penal Code § 11166(d)(1) states the following:

“A clergy member who acquires knowledge or a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect during a penitential communication is not [required to make a report].”

It goes on to define “penitential communication” and effectively creates a total exemption in which all California clergy are excused from reporting child abuse and neglect, a duty otherwise lawfully required of them by California Penal Code § 11165.7(a)(32)-(33).

SB XXX proposes § 11166(d)(1) be entirely removed, requiring all clergy in the State of California to report all instances of child abuse or neglect made known to them to the appropriate authorities.

The TTF unequivocally supports California SB 360. It both protects survivors of abuse and holds religious institutions accountable while respecting the constitutional right to religious freedom. Religious repentance should always include restitution, and, in all criminal situations like that of abuse, restitution can only be made when justice is served by the laws of the land.

If you are a resident of California, please also consider contacting your legislators and telling them you support SB 360.