Letter to the editor: Pastors and clergy should be mandatory reporters for sexual abuse


We all want the same thing; for our children to be safe, and to have a bright future.

We know that providing shelter and ending poverty protects children. Also, crime decreases when our communities become healthier; and that is our long term goal.

Following that goal, one of the simplest and most cost effective things we can do to protect our children is to allow pastors and clergy to become mandatory reporters of child abuse.

Did you know that currently in Washington state the law allows pastors and clergy to keep child abuse a secret?

Because of a recent local arrest on child abuse charges in Rochester, we were horrified and angered to discover that unlike teachers, doctors, first responders and others, pastors and clergy are legally allowed to keep child abuse secret (see “Rochester business owner accused of sexually assaulting a child under the age of 12,” The Chronicle, May 27).

In this particular case, it seems the abuse had been going on over a year while the perpetrator was shielded from accountability. Perpetrators take advantage of these loopholes. This can go on for years, decades or even generations.

Who would be against such requirements to protect children? Several religious organizations, in fact, pour unknown amounts of money into the fight against such protective laws.

There are pastors and clergy who choose to do the right thing. They make it their mission to protect children, and they voluntarily report such abuse. These protectors also fully support legislation to allow reporting of such abuse. We are asking all citizens to join in and promote such legislation that allows clergy to be included as reporters of child abuse.

Stop allowing perpetrators to hide behind this glaring loophole that only perpetuates the horror. Are you up for the challenge? Something must be done.

Until we get child-protective state law passed, county commissioners are free to write up local legislation, so let’s encourage them to do so.

Let’s join all the other states that protect children and allow mandatory reporting of child abuse.

We also strongly suggest that every parent, every guardian ask about and understand their pastor’s and clergy’s position on reporting child abuse. And ask them to report any suspected abuse to authorities.

Finally, If anyone right now has a concern, please call the Child and Family Protection HelpLine. That number is 866-764-2233.


Ray Chapman-Wilson