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Proposed bill would force priests to report people who confess to child abuse

SAN DIEGO — California lawmakers want to force faith leaders to report people who confess to child abuse.

State Senate Bill 360 is aimed towards ending the silence that has followed abuse. It would require priests who hear about sexual abuses of children through confession to report it to law enforcement.

“The victims are told to be quiet, abusers are let go,” said sexual abuse survivor Kameron Torres, “and the cycle repeats and repeats.”

Clergy say this bill would force them to break their promise to God.

“We all want to protect children, especially now,” Steve Pehanich with California Catholic Conference of Bishops. ”But this bill is not going to do it.”

Currently, clergy are exempt from reporting crimes they hear about during confession, but California lawmakers want to change that.

“It is immoral and against God’s will for people to abuse children,” said Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara).

Jackson, one of the sponsors of the bill, added, “I think it is the responsibility of the state to do everything to make sure that does not continue.”

The bill advanced out of its first committee on a 5-0 vote, but two senators didn’t vote at all.

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