Every state has a child abuse reporting law that requires persons designated as “mandatory reporters” to report known or reasonably suspected incidents of child abuse. Ministers are mandatory reporters in many states, but some states exempt them from the reporting obligation if they learned of the abuse in the course of a conversation protected by the clergy-penitent privilege. This generally refers to communications, in confidence, with a minister in the course of spiritual counsel.
This article explores a decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court regarding some of these issues. Of note, the court concluded a minister can be subject to civil liability for failing to report child abuse to the authorities, unless the minister learned of the abuse solely in the course of a conversation protected by the clergy-penitent privilege.
Parents of Minor Child v. Charlet, ...