Can priests and pastors report crimes if someone confides in them?

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Church, a place where everyone’s welcome to have their sins forgiven. But, what if those sins meant the difference between life and death. Between reporting a crime, or not.

“If somebody is doing that kind of abusing, it is absolutely our responsibility to stop that,” Clare Sulgit said.

Sulgit, the Pastor for the Fayetteville United Methodist Church, has an obligation to remain confidential until someone crosses the line.

“I must report if someone is abusing children,  planning to commit a murder, or if someone will be a danger to themselves,” she said.

According to West Virginia State Code, any medical, dental, christian science practitioner, school teacher, even law enforcement must report any type of abuse. Sulgit tells me she’s never had someone come forward to her, she’s seen the affects of child abuse.

“There’s no reason in the world that we can’t protect children in this instance,” she said.

The State Code states, the DHHR must be alerted of the abuse within 48 hours. If not reported, Chief Deputy Mike Fridley with the Fayette County Sheriffs Department says charges could be filed.

“But if it gets back to law enforcement and find out at a later date, that I went to my clergy member, I went to my teacher, I went to my social worker and they did not report it to the DHHR or law enforcement then it goes back to criminal charges and could face a misdemeanor,” Fridley said.
That person could face up to 30 days in jail.

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