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Northam signs bill requiring clergy to report child abuse

Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill into law that will require religious leaders, regardless of denomination or religion, to report child abuse and neglect.

RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill into law that will require ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, and duly accredited practitioners of any religious organization or denomination to report child abuse and neglect.

He signed into law two bills, House Bill 1659 and Senate Bill 1257. The measures mandate that religious officials must report any suspected abuse to local law enforcement starting July 1, 2019.

The legislation passed the House and Senate unanimously.

However, the law will exempt clergy members from making a report when confidentiality is required by the religious organization, such as anything a priest hears during confession. 

Full bill below:

Last month, the Diocese of Richmond released the names of 43 clergy members who had a "credible and substantiated allegation" of sexual abuse involving a minor. The Diocese of Arlington released the names of 16 such individuals.

RELATED: Catholic Diocese of Richmond names clergy with credible, substantiated allegations of sexual abuse against them

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in October that his office was investigating possible clergy sexual abuse of children.

RELATED: Hotline, online form set up to report clergy sex abuse

Individuals who have been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious, lay employee or volunteer of the Diocese are encouraged to report abuse directly to law enforcement, including Child Protective Services (CPS) at 1-800-552-7096, and by calling the Attorney General’s Clergy Abuse Hotline at 1-833-454-9064.