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