An effort to protect children from abuse in places of worship will be discussed in the upcoming General Assembly session.
Virginia House Del. Karrie Delaney (D-67th) has introduced legislation that requires clergy members to report abuse to authorities.
"I hear a large public outcry regarding the responsibility of clergy when they are made aware of child abuse, but this issue extends beyond what we are hearing in the national headlines," Delaney said in a prepared statement.
Under Virginia code 63.2-1509, professionals such as teachers, counselors, and medical personnel are required to report abuse to authorities. If the General Assembly votes in favor of Delaney’s amendment, members of the clergy would be added to the law, joining 27 states with similar enforcement following a trend of abuse cases in places of worship, according to Delaney's office.
The Loudoun and Fairfax delegate said she’s received multi-denominational support, including from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Virginia Catholic Conference.
Delaney said she intends to work with both Republicans and Democrats to ensure the bill passes in the 2019 session.
“Members of the clergy are in a role of trust and authority, and they should not be held to a different standard than every other professional whose duty it is to protect children,” Delaney stated. "House Bill 1659 will do exactly that."