Article: Free Exercise, Penance, and Delaware Court by John M. Grondelski

by AndersonsInfo 3 Replies latest watchtower child-abuse

  • AndersonsInfo

    Free Exercise, Penance, and Delaware Court

    by John M. Grondelski February 9, 2016

    Regular First Things readers know that the late Father Richard John Neuhaus never tired of arguing that the First Amendment contains not two religion clauses but one: “no establishment” and “free exercise” are not two free-floating provisions at occasional loggerheads with each other but one. Congress is banned from establishing a religion in order to foster the free exercise of religion. Neuhaus insisted that the muddle of First Amendment jurisprudence in which the Supreme Court often finds itself is in no small measure owing to its own separation (and contraposition) of “no establishment” and “free exercise.”

    That dilemma was on display in late January in a Delaware Superior Court in connection with what is usually called the priest-penitent “privilege.” Many states recognize that a priest cannot be compelled to disclose what has been revealed within the Sacrament of Reconciliation. At the same time, many States—Delaware among them—have also enacted mandatory reporting requirements in connection with child abuse or neglect. Delaware requires reporting of child abuse/neglect except in instances involving an “attorney and client and . . . priest and penitent in a sacramental confession . . . .”

    In January 2013, two elders of a Jehovah’s Witness congregation spoke with a minor member of that congregation about an abusive sexual relationship between the child and an adult member of the group. They subsequently also spoke with the adult. Disciplinary sanctions were later imposed on both the child and adult. The conversations were not reported. Delaware subsequently sought civil penalties against both the congregation and the individual elders. The defendants sought summary judgment against the charges on religious freedom and priest-penitent “privilege” grounds. In Delaware v. Laurel Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses et al., a Delaware Superior Court judge denied the motion.

    What is concerning about the decision is how the court arrived at it. The decision is a perfect illustration of what happens when “no establishment” and “free exercise” are put at odds.


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  • Mephis
    SykesFive schooling a Catholic theologian attempting to write a scare piece on 'why it's our Catholic right not to have to report child abuse'. Amusingly true and accurate from her/him.
  • Robo Bobo
    Robo Bobo

    Thanks for posting this.

    Here are the dilemmas involved for the witnesses:

    1. The victim reports the wrongdoing to the elders, not the wrongdoer. This is not like a criminal confessing his sins to a priest. This is a victim reporting abuse.

    2. The elders report what they hear to the c.o., possibly other elders and to the branch, breaking the confidentiality that would exist between a priest and a confessor. Yet they don't tell authorities.

    It's a stretch to say they are protected by priest penitent privledge.

  • JWdaughter

    With the 14 year old boy having a sexual relationship with an adult JW woman-to JWs it is primarily a question of immorality. So, the 14 year old js not perceived as a victim, but entirely a willing participant in the JW world. They both passed puberty and had seemingly consensual sex. That there was indeed a crime being reported was not important to them, they were mad because this kid was drug into them, unwillingly, and admitted (not confessed) as to his sin. That he had no right to privacy means nothing to the JWs of the world. Confidential, donfidential. You have as much privacy as they choose to give you. They can keep it between you and one elder, tell the entire body of elders, others involved in your sin (whether you wish to involve them or not), and potentially the entire congregation/s (if you have known ties to more than one.

    I'm really sick of this religion and any other trying to excuse their own bad acts/crimes by using the bible-especially when I have seen them refer to confidentiality as a important tenet of their disciplinary process. HOGWASH.

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