Every state provides some statutory form of an evidentiary clergy-communicant privilege to protect certain types of conversations between clergy members and individuals. Likewise, every state imposes a statutory obligation on certain individuals to report suspected child abuse. The relationship between clergy privilege statutes and child abuse reporting requirements has received much attention recently due to the numerous allegations of child sexual misconduct by clergy members. This Article surveys the variations on clergy privileges and child abuse reporting statutes in the fifty states. The Article then discusses the varying approaches the states take in addressing the relationship between the obligation to report and the clergy privilege. A majority of states expressly exempt clergy-privileged information from reporting requirements; some states expressly abrogate the clergy privilege in the child abuse reporting context; and a third group of states do not confront the issue at all. This Article argues that there is a need for uniformity and proposes a partial-abrogation solution that will help alleviate the tension between the clergy privilege and mandatory reporting requirements.
Norman Abrams, Addressing the Tension Between the Clergy-Communicant Privilege and the Duty to Report Child Abuse in State Statutes, 44 B.C.L. Rev. 1127 (2003), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol44/iss4/8