Skip to main content
February 10, 2024

How Mandated Reporting Laws Impact Churches

MandatedReporterTraining logo

Mandated Reporter Training

A female Sunday School teacher surrounded by children sits with a Bible on her lap. Find out how mandated reporting laws impact churches.

Mandated reporting laws impact churches and religious organizations in many states across the U.S. Discover how these laws affect your religious organization and the employees, volunteers, and clergy members within.

How Mandated Reporting Laws Impact Churches

  1. Clergy and certain church employees are legally required to report abuse
  2. Some abuse confessions may be protected under clergy-penitent privacy
  3. Churches may have legal requirements to provide mandated reporter training

Which Church Employees are Mandated Reporters?

Churches employ a number of people who may be legally required to report suspected instances of abuse. These people are known as mandated reporters.

Most states designate their mandated reporters by profession.

Clergy members are considered mandated reporters in approximately 28 states, including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Your state’s mandated reporting laws may identify additional church employees as mandated reporters, including administrative assistants and office workers who manage church records, childcare workers, teachers, and any employees who come into direct contact with children in your church.

What Do Mandated Reporters Need to Know?

The mandated reporters in your church need to know what types of abuse they are required to report, how and where to make a report, and the penalties for failing to report.

Types of Abuse

Clergy members and other church employees may find themselves required to protect vulnerable populations against different types of abuse, including:

  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Elder abuse and neglect
  • Elder financial abuse
  • Dependent adult abuse and neglect

How to Make a Report

Each state has its own mandated reporting requirements. This means the process, location, and timeline for making a report might be different depending on where your church is located. Reporters can find mandated reporter resources for their state or take mandated reporter training courses to help understand the varying requirements for reporting.

Penalty for Failing to Report

Most state legislation defines specific penalties for failing to report suspected abuse or for someone who obstructs a report. The penalties often include a financial fee, jail time, or a combination of both.

If a mandated reporter fails to report and the result is severe physical harm or death, then the legal penalties often become more severe.

Are Confessions Protected?

Clergy members often have policies in place to protect religious confidentiality.

Of the 28 states that identify clergy members as mandated reporters, all but five include a limited exclusion for clergy-penitent privacy.

If a clergy member receives a penitential communication or confession made in confidence, it may fall under the protection of clergy-penitent privacy.

This protection is often very limited to clergy members, such as ministers, rabbis, and priests, who are authorized to take confessions. The confession must be made privately and not in the presence of non-clergy members to be protected.

Clergy-penitent privacy does not exclude a clergy member from reporting instances of suspected abuse discovered in non-confessional situations. If a minister sees signs of physical abuse on a child and asks the child how they got hurt, the child’s admission of abuse would not be protected under clergy-penitent privacy.

Clergy-penitent privacy does not exclude clergy members from mandatory reporting requirements. It only offers limited protections for confessions made in confidence to a clergy member authorized to take confessions.

Are Churches Legally Required to Provide Training for Mandatory Reporters?

In some instances, your church or religious organization may be legally required to provide training for your mandated reporters.

You may be legally required to provide training to the following professionals:

  • Daycare/ childcare employees and administrators
  • Educators, teachers, or school employees
  • Volunteers of organizations that provide services to children

You can find mandated reporter training courses for clergy members and other church employees. Profession-specific training can help prepare your reporters for their duties and make it easier for them to identify and report suspected abuse. If you have questions about mandated reporter training programs for your religious organization, visit us at MandatedReporterTraining.com.

Share this post

Mandated Reporter Training icon

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest online learning resources sent to you.

Related

A female nurse smiling as she assesses a young child. Find out what nurses are responsible for reporting.
October 3, 2023

What Are Nurses Responsible for Reporting?

A nursing career comes with many responsibilities. Nurses are the foundation of our healthcare system: caring for patients, supporting healthcare teams, administering medications, and providing expert care for patients from birth to the end of life.
A nurse stands on the street looking at her phone. She is holding a set of headphones and juice.
September 14, 2023

Are Nurses Mandated Reporters of Child Abuse Outside of Work?

As a nurse, you don your scrubs each day, knowing you have a duty to protect your patients. In many states, that responsibility extends to a legal calling to protect your patients from abuse or neglect.
Person training group of people.
August 9, 2023

Mandated Reporting vs Permissive Reporting

Permissive and mandatory reporting are two of the most crucial safety nets when it comes to the safety and protection of vulnerable parties, particularly children. These reporting systems, often associated with cases of abuse or neglect, play a crucial role in ensuring the welfare of these individuals.