Disturbing news unfolding in California:
A procession of sexual assault victims on Tuesday urged the Senate to pass a law requiring priests and other religious leaders to report child abuse, ending a legal exemption that allows them to keep information confidential if they learn it during confessions.
One speaker, Kameron Torres, told lawmakers that he was sexually abused twice while growing up in a Jehovah’s Witness community. When his mother learned of the abuse and tried to report it to the church elders, “They told her, ‘It’s in God’s hands now,” Torres said.
Torres has since left that community, but said his abusers are still there and still in positions of power over potential victims.
“The universe is telling us to protect the children,” Torres said.
While members of the clergy are considered mandated reporters of abuse — meaning state law compels them to inform the police if they suspect a child being abused — there is an exemption to that requirement if the priest learns of the abuse through “penitential communication,” such as the Catholic rite of confession.Senate Bill 360 erases that exemption, and puts “religious folks on a level playing field with other mandated reporters,” such as doctors, lawyers and mental heath professionals, said Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.…After the hearing Tuesday, Torres said he was confident in SB 360’s prospects.
“I think we have a strong argument. I think it’s pretty obvious they (those who opposed the bill) didn’t. It’s time. It’s beyond time,” he said.