Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mandatory Reporting Laws for Clergy: Loopholes for Abuse

 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.  See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.  Great commentary:  2 Corinthians 7:10-11

I've been reading some news articles lately which have reminded me of my case.  My former pastor was pretty irate about I said in my Google review regarding a known sex offender having access to the church nursery.   When the media initially reported of the story, the public overwhelming sided with us.  However, after the second hearing, the media took off on the particular phrase about the sex offender.  Some people thought I was out of line for saying that phrase.  They could excuse the rest of my comments, but not that one.  This was the first time in the case where I noticed people coming to my former pastor's defense.  

My former pastor was livid that I mentioned that there was a known sex offender who had access to the nursery.  All I know is what I saw.  I remember a teenage boy (who was later convicted as a sex offender) who was in the nursery when I was there.  My pastor was the one who made the choice to NOT disclose this information to authorities.  As I recall, documents showed that he knew about the sex offender some 8 months before authorities were notified.  Authorities were notified by a former church member who also was later brought into the lawsuit.  He wanted to handle this sex abuse situation within the church.   In the hearing, we heard that the sex offender remained in the same house as the victims.  I repeat . . . . day in and day out, the known perpetrator was allowed to remain living in the same vicinity, same home, same church as the victims.  This appalled me.

Here is a screen shot of a relevant court document.  I intentionally blanked out names involved, so unfortunately it is a bit more difficult to read:  

My former pastor and his wife said some pretty strong words about me here in this interview.   You can forward to :25 mark to see for yourself:

Here's the deal.  If my former pastor lived in Oklahoma, his name might be in the headlines like employees from this church:

5 Victory Christian Church Employees Charged in Rape Investigation
The Tulsa County DA has filed charges against five employees of the Victory Christian Center for failure to report child abuse.
Paul Wilemstein, Anna George, Harold "Frank" Sullivan, Charica Daugherty and John Daugherty are all charged with misdemeanor failure to report child abuse. Sullivan is the director of Human Resources at VCC.  John is the son of VCC pastor, Sharon Daugherty, Charica is his wife.  Monday night, all five were booked into the Tulsa Co. Jail. Several hours later, all were released on on $1,500 bond.
The charges stem from recent allegations of a rape at the center.  Former VCC employee Chris Denman, 20, was charged with first degree rape of a victim under 14, forcible oral sodomy, lewd molestation and the use of a computer to facilitate a sex crime on September 13th.  The alleged victim's mother said the incident happened in August, and she did not hear about it until more than two weeks later.

And here's another case where a bishop failed to report suspected child abuse by a priest and was sentenced:  

Catholic bishop convicted of shielding priest 
(CNN) -- A judge in Kansas City, Missouri, has sentenced a Catholic bishop to two years on probation for failure to report suspected child abuse, officials said Thursday.
Bishop Robert W. Finn, 59, is the highest-ranking Catholic official to be convicted during the church's long sexual abuse scandal. 

So while my pastor complained about me and my remarks about a sex offender in the nursery, the only reason why my pastor was NOT arrested was because of the provision in the Oregon law regarding “privileged” communication for clergy.  

Oregon (
Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419B.005(3)(h) (WESTLAW through End of 2001 Reg. Sess. & Cum. Supp.) Public or private official [includes]: Member of the clergy. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419B.010(1) (WESTLAW through End of 2001 Reg. Sess. & Cum. Supp.) Any public or private official having reasonable cause to believe that any child with whom the official comes in contact has suffered abuse or that any person with whom the official comes in contact has abused a child shall immediately report or cause a report to be made….Nothing shall affect the duty to report imposed by the reporting laws, except that a psychiatrist, psychologist, member of clergy or attorney shall not be required to report such information communicated by a person if such communication is privileged under §§ 40.225 to 40.295.

Here's a helpful overall view of the mandatory reporting laws for clergy (Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect: Summary of State Laws).

I have not been able to figure out why the bishop in the CNN article above was arrested because the information on this chart seems to indicate Missouri would have given the bishop an exemption with the law allowing for "pastoral communications".   Any ideas?  

So what do you think about these clergy laws?  Should all clergy be mandatory reporters with no limitations?  Or do you think clergy should be able to handle abuse cases in-house?    When does abuse cross the line from a church issue to an issue where the civil authorities should be called?  Who gets to decide these issues? 

On some issues, I'm torn.  A case where children are playing "doctor" which ventures into sex exploration on one occasion does not equate with gross sexual abuse.  In my lawsuit in which I wrote about the sex offender having access to the nursery in the Google review, I was shocked to find out that the victims were still living with the sex offender.  I know from my time at that church that outside counseling for the victims or perpetrator would have been frowned upon.   I do not believe that this family would have had the proper care or counsel without outside involvement.  What we saw in that particular case was an offender who was confined to his locked bedroom at night.  In the court hearing, we heard about a system of alarms that were set up within the house so the offender's whereabouts was known at all times.  I later heard that he was never supposed to be alone at church (there was obviously a lapse in that system because I saw him a number of times alone in the nursery area).  No system is fool-proof - but setting up alarms, making sure he wasn't alone only addresses part of the issue.  What about the rest of the story - - proper care and counseling for both victim and perpetrator?   I believe that in situations such as this one, the pastor and elders were very ill-equipped to handle something of this magnitude and actually could have done more damage to the victims, or perhaps even others outside of the family because of  lapses.

With the Penn State fiasco, sex abuse in the Catholic Church and so many other cases in the news lately, I do not believe we are done with this issue - not by a long shot.  

photo credit: marsmet551 via photopin cc


  1. As an attorney who often works with child custody matters, the default should be to report in all cases. Properly trained investigators can determine whether there was abuse or mutual exploration like many younger children may be involved in (btw, that does not constitute abuse!). But if in doubt report.

    Second, the privilege in most law does not go to the pastor or other professional mentioned in the law, but goes to the perpetrator. It is a privilege of the confessional, so that a sinner who confesses his/her sin is protected from being reported by the minister or counselor,
    What that means in that, unless the perpetrator has requested confidentiality (or there is strong evidence that the perpetrator assumed that), the professional does not have a privilege to not report.
    However, this is not typically understood by other than attorneys and not even necessarily by all attorneys.

  2. Of course, the decision to arrest (police) or charge/prosecute for non-reporting (district attorney) is based on the failure to report when not covered by the privilege, which is a bit different than the privilege that can preclude testimony.

  3. When it comes to sexual abuse and domestic violence, there seems to be a problem in understanding what exactly is a 'crime' that needs to be reported to the police.

    When people, especially Christians, can comprehend the 'crime' factor and the need to take appropriate action in reporting crimes, then the keeping it 'in house' and dealing with individuals through the church, as a tradition of the past, can stop. There is a better chance of helping the victims and seeing that justice is served when a violation of the law committed against an individual is reported without delay.

    Therefore: 1. Understand first that crimes need to be reported to the police. 2. Report to the police and allow their investigative skills to work. 3. After this, then the church could be part of the aid provided to the victim, to the family, and to the perpetrator. 4. If churches are ill equipped to help the victim, the family, and the perpetrator, which is often the case, then they need to involve professional counselors. 5. The church can be a support with ongoing resources and church community care after the police and professional counselors have been involved.

  4. Barb,

    I fully agree and have seen the benefits of early outside professional counseling and the damage that avoiding it can cause. The cover up tendency also damages the victims further, and delays healing. It can also delay the offender, particularly the young, first time offender, getting treatment that may prove effective in redirecting the offender to appropriate, healthy relationships.

    1. I so agree with this, Barb and An Attorney. Had Meaghan not reported this to authorities, it may never have been reported. At least now the precious children can live free in their own home without worrying about being abused again (the pastor is strongly against counseling, so they probably are not getting counseling to deal with the trauma). The young sex offender will certainly be in some sort of treatment that he never would have been in had this not been reported. Time is so important in these cases - the delays only cause more risk of repeat offenses and I can't imagine being the abused children left alone to process all of those crimes wondering what they did to deserve THAT. :(

  5. A pal posted recently on a FB site geared to sexual abuse that in the US, there is such a wide variety of expectations regarding legalities in reporting abuse. It would be a huge step forward if there was one voice on this matter and that all the states were on the same page with this.

    There seems to be much confusion as to who should do what that it is no wonder that there is laxity when it comes to taking action at any level and providing true justice.

    1. Barb - Also there is a common thought among a lot of conservative churches that all counseling is evil and the government is evil. How do we get past that?

  6. any one who reads the court docOctober 10, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    It is my understanding that the perpetrator didn't 'confess' first to the pastor, the mother spoke to the former pastor first, which should dismiss the 'pastoral' priveledge of not reporting. Eventually the teen did talk to the elders. I don't understand how or why the DA didn't prosecute the elders around this. Ultimately the victims are in a safer place.

    1. That is my understanding, too.

      An Attorney - does that dismiss the "pastoral privilege"?

  7. Generally it would. However, if the perp was a minor at the time, there may be some quirk in the law that would allow the mother's transmission in seeking help for her children (both perp and victims) by speaking to the pastor to result in a privilege of that conversation.

    1. Yes, the perpetrator was a minor at the time. Thanks, An Attorney.

  8. Hi Julie Anne,

    I know you don't love people posting anonymously, but I'm going to in just this one instance. I know the name is sort of whited out, but as someone who used to go there, I can make the name out. This is the first I've heard of this (the name, not the circumstance) and am saddened more deeply than before I knew who it was. Who knows who else used to go there and has never heard this info until know. I can only imagine the pain it causes the family, and having been kinda sorta in their shoes, I know I would not want even the hint of my name up on the web for all the world to speculate about. I know some of the info might be technically public, but maybe it doesn't have to be made public on a blog. Just a thought :)

    1. You're right, it is public information and is out on the internet. But thank you for letting me know. I'll clean it up a little more.

    2. I had another thought, Anonymous, and was hoping you would answer this. If you were still at that church and had babies/toddlers in the nursery - - do you think you should have been notified about this sex offender?

      I can understand your point about the internet, but as a mom who had my children back in the nursery, I would have wanted to know. I would not have made a big deal about the issue at all, but would have been an extra set of eyes to make sure children were safe.

    3. If I knew that a rapist was in the nursery, it would not be okay with me, even with extra eyes. It sounds like there were other issues, maybe developmental, with this young man, but in my judgment, it wouldn't be okay for him to be in the nursery, whether or not someone else kept an eye on him. Not okay at all. I'm not advocating public shaming, but measures should have been taken. If, as the court document suggests, there was more concern over how the reputation of homeschooling and the church might be damaged than the care of children, both those who were harmed and those who could have been, that is beyond sad. It is warped.

      I agree with the commenter about not posting the name here even if someone could find it. But should the church have been told? I am not sure how such a delicate matter should be handled, but I lean toward yes because of the risk to others. Should the boy have been kept far from the nursery? No question.

    4. Should the church have been told? Agreed, it is a delicate matter. However, the response to such a revelation in a church *conditioned* to exclude, shun, shame, guilt-trip, ignore ... would understandably be quite different from one in a church *trained/equipped* to include, connect, challenge, seek justice, mentor.

      A constructive environment may have far more possibilities for transformation as well as protection from many kinds of harm; a destructive environment at least would potentially protect people from some kinds of harm.

    5. Jess: Yes, warped is the word. Even tho from the pulpit it was preached to obey the government - I'm sure you can find his sermons on Romans 13 still on Sermon Audio. There was a sense of: watch out for the evil government that was modeled. This is very common in the homeschool movement as well. This also is the mindset as far as spanking children (how to spank without being caught by the govt), don't let the government know about abuse because they will remove children from the home and force counseling that is unbiblical. The thought is it is much better to keep things under wraps at church - - -in this case even gross sexual crimes against minors (these crimes were the big ones, not inappropriate touch as was inaccurately portrayed by the declarations - - my attorney looked it up - - there were over 20 counts). It's pretty scary to think about because at what point would they consider turning someone over to authorities if rape wasn't bad enough?

      I am having mixed feelings after concealing more of the name last night. There was no way anyone outside of the church would have been able to identify his name. Who are we trying to protect? And why? Maybe it's because I know too much about this case and what was involved. So what if people would be shocked - - - do we conceal the truth - - -- at the expense of more crimes against children?

  9. Absolutely I think parents in the church should have been told that there was a problem - that one or two kids had been abused, and to kind of try to assess their own children etc., since it is always possible for other crimes to have been committed. As a victim of this very kind of abuse, I am very uncomfortable when I run into someone who knows the perpetrator and knows the details. VERY. I feel naked and ashamed in front of them. Just like a reader's digest story, the names ought to be changed to protect the innocent. The court of law has dealt with it. If he is released (or maybe he already has been?) appropriate information will be released at that time. Just as I am facing the release of the perpetrator in my case very soon - I know information is going to come out again. To have extra people chit chatting about it and hashing out their perspective etc., etc., was hurtful and embarrassing at the time. To have it brought up again will likely result in the same emotions. I am a person, not a news story, not a case study for someone's blog.

    Also, to say that ONLY a person who went to that church would know who it was is false. Did his family not live here for years? I think maybe they still do? Do you think they have made new friends since then? Maybe even friends who know that they go or went to that church (I have no idea if they have left). Do you think that as long as he is not living in their home as part of their family that everyone new they meet needs to know the whole story? Does the victim tell their story to everyone? Even if he is living at home, if is has repented - do you confess all of your sins to other people? Do you think it is possible that no one who knows them from outside of church is following this blog? It's a small small world.

    I implore you to leave the name as is, not for the sake of the perpetrator, but for the sake of allowing the innocent to move on.

    1. Anonymous 12:38 - - are you the same Anonymous from 11:55 last night?

      In your first line you mention that parents in the church should have been told, but then discuss how uncomfortable you are when you run into someone who knows the perpetrator who knows the story. I think that is the reality of sex crimes. There is the hard truth of what happened and there are innocent victims who get brought in who never asked to be violated. I'm very sorry to hear that you have suffered this kind of abuse and the impact it has had on your life - even years later.

      The perpetrator's family still lives there (to my knowledge) and most likely still attends the church. I highly doubt they have ventured out much beyond the church as the church tends to isolate - even from family members who are not in alignment with their beliefs.

      Even if the perpetrator has repented, this magnitude of crime does not mean you forget about it and act like it is done. Proper precautions must be made to ensure that he is not around children unsupervised EVER again. And as far as me confessing my sins to other people? If I committed sins that affect someone's life forever such as this, I would not expect it to just go away - it doesn't. It will be in the minds of people - especially the victim - for years to come (just as you have indicated). This is one of the consequences of sin and its lasting effects on others.

    2. No - you don't forget - but do YOU have to be the one to hash it out? Who made YOU the moderater/exposer on everything that went on in that church, or in people's personal lives? Perhaps you could just leave some people alone. And maybe let the victims think that you're not actively chatting away about their unfortunate circustance where all the world can see if they choose. I know, because I have disagreed with you, I am wrong.I get that vibe on this whole blog. Interesting, since this is about abuse, and you have interestingly taken the tactic that you are right, even when you are wrong. Sorry - but you're pushing the limits. Oh, and you can reply again, but I won't, as I've seen in my other comments that it is kind of the Julie Anne is always right session around here.

    3. Is it pushing the limits to expose a church whose pastor decided to take matters into his own hands regarding an offender/rapist in the church? I'm sorry, I cannot agree with you there. My baby could have been another victim. The perpetrator was in the nursery with me when I was with my baby. I could have easily asked him to watch my baby while I went to the bathroom. Do you know how fast a child can be molested or sexually violated? I was angry that this teen had access to areas where children were present. I was angry that I was not told so that I could be in a better position to protect my own children. I understand the pain from which you are speaking, but this is not your personal story of abuse. This is all part of the story that has affected me, my family, and countless other families. It is the story of a pastor who thinks he knows how to handle a sex offender (rape, etc) more than trained professionals. It is the story of a man who lacked common sense to protect those in his care.

    4. My babies were in the nursery/childcare area with the offender for years before he was discovered. I have been haunted by thoughts that they may have been harmed by him. Their inability to recount what happened in the nursery due to their young age and their lack of recall now do not comfort me. A victim is a victim even if they have no memory of abuse. I trusted the church and the parents of this young man. Their failure to disclose what was a dangerous situation for my children sickens me. At the very least, the pastor and elders of the church owe the congregation (current and former)an apology for putting their own desires for good reputation above the care of the weak.

      James 1:27
      New International Version (NIV)
      27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

      Our Lord Jesus Christ did not care about his reputation. God taught us in His word from the beginning to take care of the poor, to protect those without power, to defend the weak.

    5. My heart goes out to you, wallflower. I would be having the same thoughts if my children were in the nursery. As is the pattern in so many dysfunctional churches, the modus operandi is to protect the perpetrator and ignore/abandon the victims, so your verse is so appropriate. God cannot be amused at this type of behavior.

  10. Oh, and just to demonstrate how small of a world it is, my "incident" occurred many years ago, hundreds of miles from where I live now. One of my husband's good friends turns out to be a man who worked with the perpetrator 14 years ago, in a land far far away. It is a small world.

  11. Anonymous 1238, you sound bitter and defensive about this. Its not your shame as you were the victim, unfortunately even if there is a conviction of the perpetrator, life long scars of the soul follow us through life. I was a victim of sexual abuse, perpetrator never tried because of statute of limitations, and the majority of my biological family turned their backs on me, choosing to side with the perpetrator. When I had children, as they grew, when my perpetrator passed away-grief flooded my I would go to CHRIST and enleash my tears and grief for the injustice of it all, He gives me strength to heal and grow. When I heard from 2 young children what was happening to them, Christ gave me the strength to do what apparently at least 5 adults who knew what was happening could not. I have heard from several people who have since left the church horrible lies about me from the pulpit, character assasination, but even this will not stop me from speaking the truth, and yes in love. Sexual deviance is far reaching and when uneducated people try to 'cover' it up, it only gets worse. I pray God grants peace in your process, deep healing throughout your life as it re-enters your mind...remembering vengeance is God's, He will repay. Today, I am grateful for the courage I was given through my trials, knowing Christ's love for me is greater than anything that happens to me. And when I must go against 'authority' who are making ungodly decisions (IMO), He will grant me His strength to persevere through whatever comes my way. Love to you and hope that He will wipe away all your tears.

    1. There is something very good that came out of both of our abuse stories, Meaghan - - we have a resolve to be the voice of those who are unable to speak. You absolutely made the right choice to protect those precious children.


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