Protesters demand Utah require clergy to report sex abuse

Aug 19, 2022, 10:01 AM | Updated: Aug 20, 2022, 7:26 am
Protesters gather on the steps of the Utah State Capitol, at a rally to gain support for removing t...

Protesters gather on the steps of the Utah State Capitol, at a rally to gain support for removing the clergy exemption from mandatory reporting in cases of abuse and neglect, on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022 in Salt Lake City. Demonstrators gathered outside the Utah Capitol on Friday to demand lawmakers remove an exemption from state law that frees religious leaders from being required to report sexual abuse when perpetrators mention it in confessions. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

(Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Survivors and faith leaders rallied Friday at the Utah State Capitol to demand change to a state law that exempts religious leaders from requirements that they report child sexual abuse brought to their attention in spiritual confessions.

“If we as a people, as churches and as a state are failing to protect our children, then we are failing,” Lindsey Lundholm, the rally’s organizer, told an audience of more than 100 in Salt Lake City that included survivors of abuse applauding while tears streamed down their faces.

Lundholm spoke of her firsthand experience of abuse growing up in Idaho as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a young girl and member of the faith widely known as the Mormon church, she said she told a local bishop about her abuse and instead of reporting it to law enforcement, the bishop guided her abuser to seek forgiveness from God.

Lundholm’s story was one of many shared on the steps of the Capitol, which stands on a hill above the church headquarters and its Salt Lake Temple. Other women also shared their stories and read aloud written accounts collected for the demonstration, using them to demand lawmakers require clergy report abuse when it’s confessed to them.

The rally comes two weeks after an Associated Press investigation found the church’s abuse reporting system can be misused by church leaders to divert abuse accusations away from law enforcement and instead to church attorneys who may bury the problem, leaving victims in harm’s way.

The AP story, based on sealed records and court cases filed in Arizona and West Virginia, uncovered a host of concerns that victims have raised about the helpline. Those include how church officials have cited exemptions to mandatory reporting laws, so-called clergy-penitent privilege, as an excuse for not reporting abuse brought to their attention of children as young as 5 years old.

Since its publication, the church has criticized the story as flawed. In a statement this week, its representatives said the help line “has everything to do with protecting children and has nothing to do with cover-up,” but did not dispute any of the story’s facts.

Utah is among more than 20 states with similar laws that give reporting exceptions to clergy who receive information about child neglect or sexual abuse during spiritual confessions. The exemptions do not extend to therapists, doctors or any other adult known to offer confidential counsel.

In Arizona, church attorneys are attempting to use clergy-penitent privilege to limit what its officials have to answer questions about in a lawsuit that accuses them of conspiring to cover-up child sex abuse. A judge ruled this week that church officials had to answer questions.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and lawmakers from different faith backgrounds and both sides of the aisle have recently come out in support of changing the state law exempting clergy from mandatory reporting. But such a law could face an uphill battle in Utah, where the church commands sizeable cultural and political influence, counts an estimated two-thirds of residents as members and relies on volunteers to serve as clergy members.

Rep. Angela Romero, a Democrat whose efforts to end the exemption stalled in 2020, said Friday that she remained committed to changing the law.

“I’m tired of making excuses for perpetrators,” she said, noting that her push had recently won support from Latter-day Saint Republicans.

In addition to Romero and survivors, Friday’s rally also included a rabbi and former Latter-day Saints bishop. Stuart Smith, the bishop, said clergy could benefit from clear abuse reporting guidelines.

“Such a requirement, codified in state law, may have the additional benefit of allowing the helpline for bishops now operated by the LDS church to better perform its stated purpose — which is to provide expertise and resources to help the victims of abuse,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Robert Habeck, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, and Markus Krebber, ri...
Associated Press

German energy giant RWE to end coal use by 2030

BERLIN (AP) — German energy giant RWE said Tuesday that it will phase out the burning of coal by 2030, saving 280 million metric tons of climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. The decision will accelerate the closure of some of Europe’s most polluting power plants and a vast lignite strip mine in the west of the […]
1 day ago
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk out of the White House to board Marine One in Wa...
Associated Press

Biden marks 100 days since Dobbs ruling as Dems eye midterms

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is highlighting his administration’s efforts to protect access to abortion as he marks 100 days since the Supreme Court overturned a national right to the procedure and Democrats hope the issue will galvanize their voters ahead of the midterm elections. Biden on Tuesday will attend the second meeting of […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Swedes close area of Baltic Sea around pipeline gas leaks

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Swedish prosecutor in charge of the investigation into leaks from pipelines in the Baltic Sea said Tuesday that he has ordered the area to be closed as he carries out a preliminary investigation into “suspected gross sabotage.” “I understand the great public interest, but we are at the beginning of […]
1 day ago
A man pumps water in front of destroyed house in the recently recaptured town of Lyman, Ukraine, Mo...
Associated Press

Live Updates: Russia-Ukraine War

The city council of Kyiv says it is providing evacuation centers with potassium iodine pills in preparation for a possible nuclear strike on the capital, Ukraine’s largest city. Potassium iodine pills can help block the absorption of harmful radiation by the thyroid gland if taken just before or immediately after exposure to nuclear radiation. The […]
1 day ago
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss listens to Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng ...
Associated Press

UK’s Truss vows to listen as she reels from policy U-turns

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss has insisted she is leading “a listening government” that learns from its mistakes, as she tries to restore her shaky authority and reassure financial markets spooked by her government’s see-sawing economic pledges. Truss told the BBC in an interview broadcast Tuesday that she and her ministers […]
1 day ago
Dead bodies of Russian servicemen lie on the ground in the recently recaptured town of Lyman, Ukrai...
Associated Press

Russian losses evident in key liberated Ukrainian city

LYMAN, Ukraine (AP) — The bodies of Russian soldiers were lying in the streets of a key eastern Ukrainian city on Tuesday following their comrades’ retreat that marked the latest defeat for Moscow even as Russia’s upper house of parliament rubber-stamped the annexation of Ukrainian regions on Tuesday. Russian troops pulled back from Lyman over […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Protesters demand Utah require clergy to report sex abuse