May 23, 2005

Ohio proposal on child abuse troubles clerics

Beacon Journal

By Colette M. Jenkins
Beacon Journal religion writer

The Rev. Byron Arledge doesn't need legislation to mandate doing the right thing.

``I would be hard-pressed to think of a reason why a clergy person would not report the suspected abuse of a child. It's not a political decision. It's a child-welfare issue and a matter of conscience,'' said Arledge, interim pastor at St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church in the village of Tuscarawas in Tuscarawas County.

Arledge, who is also a licensed counselor and executive director of Pastoral Counseling Service in Akron, said clerics have a duty to protect children who need help -- not because they want to comply with a law, but because they are required ``by a higher power'' to do what is right.

That higher power is not the Ohio legislature, which is considering a proposal that would require clerics and church leaders to report suspected child abuse, just as teachers, doctors, lawyers and other professionals are required to do.

The bill also would lengthen the statute of limitations for the filing of lawsuits involving child sexual abuse to 20 years, clarify that a 20-year criminal statute of limitations does not start until a victim is 18 years old, and establish a one-year window after the law's enactment in which victims could sue alleging childhood sexual abuse that occurred in the previous 35 years.

Posted by kshaw at May 23, 2005 07:04 AM