December 20, 2018
Delegate Karrie Delaney Takes on the Silence of Child Abuse in Places of Worship
Chantilly, Va.- Virginia House Delegate Karrie Delaney is leading an effort to protect children in the Commonwealth of Virginia by introducing legislation that requires members of the Clergy to report child abuse to authorities.
Currently, Virginia declares professionals like teachers, counselors, and medical personnel “mandatory reporters,” which requires them to inform authorities of suspected or known cases of child abuse and neglect. Delaney believes that members of Clergy should be mandatory reporters, too.
"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," says Delaney. Illustrated by the origin of House Bill 1659, where community member came to Delegate Delaney after her local, stand-alone church failed to act on a case of child abuse. While many nationwide denominations already have internal policies in place, child abuse is too often hidden in places of worship where there is no regional office or national hierarchy. Adding Virginia to the 27 states where Clergy are already mandatory reporters will provide the accountability the public demands and will protect more children.
“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,” says Delaney. "House Bill 1659 will do exactly that."
In recognizing that protection of our children and having their well-being at heart is the core of all faith communities, Delegate Delaney has garnered multi-denominational support for the legislation, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Virginia Catholic Conference.
Jeff Caruso, Executive Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference has provided the following statement of support:
“On behalf of our state’s two Catholic dioceses, the Virginia Catholic Conference supports Delegate Delaney’s bill. It strengthens protections for children and respects religious doctrines and practices. We supported the same proposal in 2006 and hope it will be enacted this session.”
Additionally, Darcy Hirsh, Director of the Northern Virginia Government and Community Relations, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington states that "Above all other concerns, we have a sacred duty to protect children. Clergy holds a unique position in the community as leaders, role models, counselors, teachers, and camp counselors. So long as reporting does not interfere with the free exercise of doctrinal duties, clergy should be held to the same standards of reporting child abuse and neglect as others in our community entrusted to care for the well-being of our children.”
Delegate Delaney intends to work with both Republicans and Democrats to ensure that this bill passes in the 2019 General Assembly session and bringing forth these enhanced protections for our children.