The Iowa House has voted to make the clergy mandatory reporters of child abuse. Representative Kevin McCarthy, a democrat from Des Moines, says the proposal’s a response to Catholic church policy which does not require the church to report priests suspected of abuse.McCarthy says 33 other states have such a requirement on the books. McCarthy says unfortunately, there have been too many cases in which clergy have been “shuffled from church to church and allowed to continue their abuse.’ But others, like Representative Dave Heaton, a republican from Mount Pleasant, argued it’s unconstitutional for the state to force the clergy to report child sex abuse. Heaton says it’ll make ministers agents of the state. And Heaton compared the move to McCarthyism. Heaton says he knows mistakes were made in the Catholic Church, but he says the churches should be allowed to solve the problem on their own rather than have the legislature respond. Representative Lance Horback, a republican from Tama, says if clergy are “mandatory reporters” of suspected child abuse, people will stop seeking counseling from clerics. He says when families of strong religious backgrounds have problems, they go to see their pastors. He says this requirement would take that off the board as an option for those families. Under the proposal, whatever’s said during confession or in a confidential counseling session will remain confidential. Representative Rod Roberts, a republican from Carroll who’s a minister, says the proposal seeks to solve a problem. Roberts says it sends the message that “enough is enough” and “we’re not going to tolerate” clergy who abuse children. Republican Representative James Van Fossen of Davenport, a retired police officer, spoke in favor of the bill, too.Under current law, so-called “mandatory reporters” of child abuse are to report suspicions when a child is under the age of 12. The proposal making clergy mandatory reporters was tacked onto a bill that raises the age when reporting of suspected abuse is required from 12 to 16. The proposal to force clergy to be mandatory reporters of child abuse was offered as an amendment to the original bill which raises the age from 12 to 16, and the amendment passed on a voice vote. The bill, as amended, passed on a 75 to 22 vote.
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