Gov. Cox suggests early support for attempt to change Utah child abuse reporting laws
Recent reporting by The Associated Press put a spotlight on how sexual abuse allegations are handled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now, some Utah lawmakers want to make reporting abuse mandatory for clergy.
State Reps. Phil Lyman (R-Blanding) and Angela Romero (D-Salt Lake City) both recently proposed legislation that would remove the exception for religious leaders in the state’s child abuse reporting laws.
Speaking to reporters during his monthly news conference, Gov. Spencer Cox indicated that he would support such legislation, although he has not seen any specifics yet.
“Details really do matter in this space,” he said. “I think we all have a duty to speak out and to protect our children, our most vulnerable. If this is something that would help that, then we should all be supportive of it.”
Lyman’s and Romero’s proposals come after an Arizona lawsuit brought against the church where a bishop was allegedly told to not report abuse by church lawyers.
Romero introduced a bill to change Utah’s mandatory reporting laws in 2020, but it wasn’t assigned to a committee or given a hearing. Now, she thinks things have changed.
“I feel like a lot of progress has been made,” she said. “I feel like [in 2020] I didn’t have the support outside of people who had experienced this particular issue. It was nice to see Rep. Lyman step up.”
For his part, the Blanding Republican is willing to cooperate on legislation.
“I respect Angela and the bill that she ran a couple of years ago was a good bill,” he said. “Mine is basically following that same pattern, so it would make sense that we co-sponsor or work together on it.”
When asked if the church would support mandatory reporting legislation in Utah, it referred KUER to an earlier statement in response to the AP story that stated church leaders and members are instructed to comply with “whatever reporting is required by law."