We fully support Senator Hill’s bill that requires clergy to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect, without exception. For too long, religious authorities have been protected from reporting these cases, leaving children vulnerable and unsafe. Like teachers, physicians, and other mandatory reporters, members of the clergy often spend much time with families, and so they are in an ideal position to notice or learn if a child is being, or has been, harmed.

— Rev. Dr. Jaime Romo
President, the Child-Friendly Faith Project

On February 20, Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) filed Senate Bill 360 that would remove an exemption that allows members of the clergy to withhold knowledge of suspected cases of child abuse from law enforcement if the information is obtained during “penitential communication.” We have long wanted states to close the “confession loophole” and are thrilled about this important move by Sen. Hill and his decision to include Jaime Romo’s words in his press release!

The bill made big news, and Jaime was quoted in a lot of coverage. That includes Newsweek, World Religion News, the Sacramento Bee, and the Christian Post. You can also click here to see video coverage on San Diego’s NBC TV affiliate. Read our letter submitted to the Public Safety Committee in support of the bill.

Sen. Jerry Hill

SB 360 faces a lot of opposition, particularly from the powerful Catholic Church lobby and Republican legislators. Opponents of the bill say the “sanctity” of confession justifies clergy not reporting abuse, even though it leaves children unsafe. We ask that you call and email California Senators and urge them to put child protection first and vote ‘yes’ on SB 360. (See link below.) We also ask that you sign this petition showing your support for the bill.

 

UPDATE: On April 2, the Senate Public Safety Committee held a hearing on SB360. Many people attended and testified for the bill, and the committee voted it out 5-0 with 2 members abstaining. This is great news! Next, the bill will go to the Senate Appropriations Committee.


The Child-Friendly Faith Project kindly asks for any financial contribution you can give so we can continue to raise awareness of religious child maltreatment and serve children, families, and survivors. All donations are tax-deductible. Together, we can ensure that no child suffers abuse or neglect as a result of religious belief, doctrine, or practice. Click here to learn more.

Janet Heimlich is an award-winning journalist and the author of "Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment," the first book to fully examine the issue of child abuse and neglect enabled by religious belief. In 2012, Janet founded the Child-Friendly Faith Project whose mission is to share knowledge and build community around the issue of religious child maltreatment (RCM) and advocate for and empower those whose lives are impacted by RCM. She also sits on the board of directors of Foundation Beyond Belief and co-hosts the podcast, "Parenting Beyond Belief." Prior to becoming a child advocate, Janet was a freelance reporter for National Public Radio, work for which she won numerous journalism awards; she has also written nonfiction articles for such publications as Texas Monthly and the Texas Observer.

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