This Montana case is forcing more WT secret info out into the public domain, doubtless to the great annoyance of the GB. Two things are striking. First, I have long been suspicious that this Vow of Obedience and Poverty that all Bethelites must sign is for more than just tax purposes. It's clear here that it is also an attempt to shelter Bethel workers from child abuse reporting laws by their supposedly being protected by clergy-penitent privilege.
More interesting is the second, related thing. It seems that some of these lower courts have gone ahead and made decisions on enforcing the child abuse reporting laws that are on the books without considering how they may be in conflict with the legal status of clergy-penitent privilege.
Regardless of what we may individually think about this matter, and, of course, not all countries have the idea of clergy-penitent privilege built into their legal systems, apparently no higher US courts have ruled on the inherent conflict between child abuse reporting laws and the legal principle behind clergy-penitent privilege. Otherwise, the GB's attempt to hide behind the latter would be of no legal value. The opposing lawyers would simply call to the attention of the judge that such a matter has already been decided in "such-and-such" case. But they have not done so.
Does anyone know if such a decision is working its way through the higher courts anywhere? If not, the GB's stance may eventually force it—after all, neither the Catholic church nor any other religious groups have attempted such legal argumentation. Perhaps Barb Anderson can answer this question?