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Exemptions for child abuse reporting weighed

A Delaware judge is considering the constitutionality of a state law thatexempts priests from being required to report suspected child abuse disclosed during confessions — and, if the law is constitutional, whether it should protect elders in a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation.

The Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against the Laurel Delaware Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses last year alleging two elders failed to report to state authorities a sexual relationship between a woman and a 14-year-old boy, both of whom were members of the congregation.

State law says individuals and organizations must report suspected child abuse and neglect immediately via a 24-hour state hotline, unless they learn of the abuse in an attorney-client setting or “that between priest and penitent in a sacramental confession.

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