Judge Questions Sexual Abuse Law in Jehovah's Witnesses Case

Nov 10, 2015

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WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - A state lawsuit against elders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation has prompted a judge to question the constitutionality of a Delaware law mandating the reporting of suspected child abuse.

The attorney general's office is suing elders of the Sussex County congregation for not reporting an unlawful sexual relationship between a woman and a 14-year-old boy, both of whom were congregation members.

State law requires anyone who knows or in good faith suspects that a child is being abused or neglected to call a 24-hour hotline. But the law contains exemptions for attorney-client conversations and communications "between priest and penitent in a sacramental confession."

The Jehovah's Witnesses' lawyer argued Monday that they are covered by the clergy exemption, which the judge suggested seems to give special protection, as written, to Catholics.