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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended August 06, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 08Aug00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Bishop Protests Innocence As Conference Examines Abuse Reporting Issue

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Just days after the 13th annual Mountain West Child abuse and Domestic Violence conference in Ogden, Utah discussed the issue of when clergy can and should report abuse, the second of two LDS Bishops charged with failure to report abuse was arraigned in Salt Lake City. LDS Bishop Bruce Christensen is accused of failing to report the abuse of a 13-month-old girl by her father, as reported to him by her mother.

Christensen's defense attorney Bradley P. Rich, told reporters Friday that the reporting statute was "bogus," and said he would challenge its constitutionality. Christensen's arraignment follows that of Sandy LDS Bishop David Maxwell, who was charged in a case involving two teenagers in his Ward who engaged in consensual petting that led to rape.

Earlier in the week, attorney David McConkie, legal counsel to the LDS Church, discussed the reporting law and its implications for LDS Bishops. McConkie said the law is difficult to understand, especially when applied to ambiguous situations, such as consensual sexual contact between minors. "It's a very difficult law to understand," he said. "It creates untold challenges for a church leader."

Other clergy at the conference went further than McConkie, arguing that if conversations between a priest and penitent are not kept confidential under the law, perpetrators would never confess. McConkie claimed that "any church would break down" if members knew that what they told their leaders would be reported to police. "If we had to Mirandize [everyone], you can understand the chilling effect that would have," he said.

But representatives of law enforcement and child abuse advocates argued that the legal system must be involved in abuse cases, "I don't believe God condones anyone standing by,"said Texas police detective Mike Johnson, who spoke at the conference. "Kids lack the ability to protect themselves. They will continue to be abused under this veil of protection."

Utah Clergy Fear Loss Of Confessional Secrecy
Salt Lake Tribune 3Aug00 N1
By Stephen Hunt: Salt Lake Tribune

Reporting abuse threatens fabric of confessions
Deseret News 3Aug00 N1
By Angie Welling: Deseret News staff writer
Clerics decry child abuse but cite need for confidentiality

Bishop pleads not guilty
Deseret News 5Aug00 N1
By Jenifer K. Nii: Deseret News staff writer


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