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Tag: H.B. 129

House Bill 131 (HB0131 (utah.gov)), entitled “Clergy Child Abuse Reporting Requirements”

Today’s blog post reviews House Bill 131 (HB0131 (utah.gov)), entitled “Clergy Child Abuse Reporting Requirements”. It proposes changes to Utah Code § 80-2-602, the law governing when members of the clergy are and are not required to report child abuse.

Currently, Utah Code § 80-2-602(1) provides, in pertinent part regarding clergy and child abuse reporting:

“[I]f a person . . . has reason to believe that a child is, or has been, the subject of abuse or neglect, or observes a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect, the person shall immediately report the suspected abuse or neglect to the division or to the nearest peace officer or law enforcement agency.” (§ 80-2-602(1)

So far, so good.

(3) Subject to Subsection (4), the reporting requirement described in Subsection (1) does not apply to:

(a) a member of the clergy, with regard to any confession made to the member of the clergy while functioning in the ministerial capacity of the member of the clergy and without the consent of the individual making the confession, if:

(i) the perpetrator made the confession directly to the member of the clergy; and

(ii) the member of the clergy is, under canon law or church doctrine or practice, bound to maintain the confidentiality of the confession[.]

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(4)

(a) When a member of the clergy receives information about abuse or neglect from any source other than confession of the perpetrator, the member of the clergy is required to report the information even if the member of the clergy also received information about the abuse or neglect from the confession of the perpetrator.

(b) Exemption of the reporting requirement for an individual described in Subsection (3) does not exempt the individual from any other efforts required by law to prevent further abuse or neglect by the perpetrator.

H.B. 129 would, if passed into law, include this new provision (please note that the numbers out to the side are the line numbers in H.B. 131):

58          (4) (a) Notwithstanding the exemption in Subsection (3)(a), a member of the clergy

59     may report suspected child abuse or neglect.

I have two major concerns about such a provision.

1. Confession, as they say, is good for the soul. It is. Why? Knowing that confession to clergy—and knowing that confession is and shall remain strictly confidential (private)—is often the only thing that summons a sinner’s courage to confront and admit his/her sins. The freedom to confess (to clergy) without fear of arrest or incarceration helps some who are tormented by their sins confront them. Through confession, clergy serve to help the sinner (whose sins are also often crimes) take the first step toward repentance. Take that absolute confidentiality away, and the value of confession is destroyed. Many who would have otherwise confessed will—knowing confession is no longer strictly confidential—not confess and thus not work their way to being publicly accountable. No one benefits from that.

Some well-meaning clergy might believe that taking (or even eliciting) a confession and then reporting the sinner to law enforcement is “for the sinner’s own good,” but that kind of betrayal of trust would then lead to distrusting clergy and then to avoiding and rejecting the very spiritual care we so desperately need both individually and as a society.

2. I’ve been a lawyer for a long time now (27 years, to be exact, as of the date I write this post), and while I don’t claim to know everything, I have experienced “mays” becoming “shalls”; judges and juries go from “I acknowledge that you didn’t have to report” to “I can’t believe you didn’t report!” or “Just because you weren’t required to report does not mean in this instance that you shouldn’t have; have you no decency!” I can easily foresee situations in which a clergy member keeps a confession confidential (as is his/her religious and moral duty) and then be publicly humiliated for it, sued civilly for it, and yes, even somehow convicted criminally for it (where there’s a will, there’s a way). It’s hard enough to be a clergy member as it is. It’s hard enough to encourage and inspire people to repent and better themselves. Eliminate the strictly confidential status of the confession and the essential nature of confession itself is eliminated. When it comes to reporting abuse “clergy may” turns into “clergy shall”. That would be disastrous. If clergy must rat out the sinners in their congregations, then those whom clergy could help the most will avoid and reject the clergy (see above).

To those who will say, “Have you no concern for the abuse victims?,” the answer is clear (hard to accept, perhaps, but no less clear): there is a greater interest than that of the individual victims at stake here. Confidential confession to clergy helps clergy to persuade sinners to recognize and do what is right. We are all sinners to some degree. Diluting the confidentiality of the confession will cause potential penitents to remain in the shadows.

Priest-penitent privilege: Removing it doesn’t help children | Opinion – Deseret News

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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House Bill 129 Child Support Requirements

Today’s blog post treats another proposed law that is up for consideration during the 2024 Utah legislative session: House Bill 129 (HB0129 (utah.gov)), entitled “Child Support Requirements”.

This bill would, if passed into law, provide that a parent or other obligated individual is not responsible to pay child support for a child who is in the custody of the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS).

The law that is currently in place provides for the possibility of a parent having to pay child support to DCFS or to reimburse DCFS for funds is has expended on the support of a child while the child is in DCFS custody. H.B. 129 would eliminate that possibility.

I wonder why the government would want to eliminate a way of getting its hands on our money, and in fairness, I don’t see anything wrong with a parent having to reimburse the state for funds DCFS expends on behalf of a child in the protective custody, temporary custody, or custody of the division, from the child’s parent or guardian. Do you?

The proposed legislation is cited below:

27     Be it enacted by the Legislature of the state of Utah:

28          Section 1. Section 78A-6-356 is amended to read:

29          78A-6-356. Child support obligation when custody of a child is vested in an

30     individual or institution.

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114          (12) [(a)] The child’s parent or another obligated individual is not responsible for child
115     support for the period of time that the child is removed from the child’s home by the Division
116     of Child and Family Services [if:].
117          [(i) the juvenile court finds that there were insufficient grounds for the removal of the
118     child; and]
119          [(ii) the child is returned to the home of the child’s parent or guardian based on the
120     finding described in Subsection (12)(a)(i).]

121          [(b) If the juvenile court finds insufficient grounds for the removal of the child under
122     Subsection (12)(a), but that the child is to remain in state custody, the juvenile court shall order
123     that the child’s parent or another obligated individual is responsible for child support beginning
124     on the day on which it became improper to return the child to the home of the child’s parent or
125     guardian.]

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138          80-2-301. Division responsibilities.
139          (1) The division is the child, youth, and family services authority of the state.
140          (2) The division shall:

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202          [(l) seek reimbursement of funds the division expends on behalf of a child in the
203     protective custody, temporary custody, or custody of the division, from the child’s parent or
204     guardian in accordance with an order for child support under Section 78A-6-356;]

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282          80-2-303. Division enforcement authority — Attorney general responsibilities.

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306          (3) (a) The attorney general’s office shall represent the division in an action[:]


307          [(a)] involving a minor who has not been adjudicated as abused or neglected, but who
308     is placed in the custody of the division by the juvenile court primarily on the basis of
309     delinquent behavior or a status offense[; or].
310          [(b) for reimbursement of funds from a parent or guardian under Subsection
311     80-2-301(2)(l).]

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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