Bill would require pastors, priests to report suspected abuse they learn of as a spiritual advisor

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North Dakota could become the first state in the nation to force clergy to fess up.

Under state law, members of the clergy are considered mandatory reporters of suspected crimes. However, there is an exception.

Pastors and priests are not required to report information they learn as a spiritual advisor.

Republican Sen. Judy Lee of West Fargo wants to change that with Bill 2180.

That would threaten a priest or pastor to 30 days in jail if they refuse to report suspected abuse.
She says this is not about arresting the offender, but getting that child help.

Catholic critics of the bill say priests often recommend that an abuser or victim gets help when they report such cases during confession.

They also feel it would be counter productive and victims would be scared to speak up for help.

“Do you cross this line which violates first amendment issues, expecatiation of privacy parishoners have and be counter productive,” said Christopher Dodson, the North Dakota Catholic Conference Executive Director.

“I have a hard time thinking its ethical, or moral or even religious. I don’t care if it’s a Shaman, a Rabbi, a priest or a pastor or whoever it might be, for them not to recognize, particularly that a child might be abused and not report it,” said Lee.

The Catholic League says no other state in the country requires priests to divulge information during confession.

They said Utah and California tried it last year, but it got shut down.

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