A Delaware judge is considering the constitutionality of a state law thatexempts priests from being required to report suspected child abuse disclosed during confessions — and, if the law is constitutional, whether it should protect elders in a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation.
The Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against the Laurel Delaware Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses last year alleging two elders failed to report to state authorities a sexual relationship between a woman and a 14-year-old boy, both of whom were members of the congregation.
State law says individuals and organizations must report suspected child abuse and neglect immediately via a 24-hour state hotline, unless they learn of the abuse in an attorney-client setting or “that between priest and penitent in a sacramental confession.”
On Monday afternoon, Superior Court Judge Mary M. Johnston heard arguments in Wilmington about whether the elders should fall under the exemption for priests. This then led her to question if it is constitutional to have language in a law that only protects clergy of one religion.