Over the weekend, after 21 hours of deliberation, the verdict in the Jerry Sandusky trial was announced. Sandusky, of course, was the assistant football coach at Penn State, and was accused of inappropriate sexual contact with young boys. Three counts were thrown out, but Sandusky was found guilty of 45 of the 48 counts brought against him.
How does this affect you as a pastor or church staff person?
Last week, I received an email from a good friend who is a pastor in central PA. He said that pastors in his area are already feeling the effects of the Sandusky trial. He wrote:
“In the aftermath of Sandusky’s alleged crimes coming to light, advocacy groups within central Pennsylvania have seized the opportunity to begin a crusade to label non-reporting of abuse a criminal act. Recently, a pastor in my township of a church two miles from my house was arrested on charges of not reporting abuse. Here’s the link. This story hit both the print and the television news. While I have my own opinions about this crackdown on non-reporting, I will spare you from them at this time. I’m simply sending this news to you as a courtesy to know that failure to report has taken on a new penalty in my region of ministry. I believe what comes out of the Sandusky trial will have national implications on reporting.”
So, it seems that at least in Pennsylvania, the Sandusky trial is having an effect on pastors, if in no other way than bringing this issue of reporting to the forefront. Some pastors are finding their conversations and knowledge are bringing new consequences and legal obligations.
I must note that a similar notification case in Michigan was decided in a completely different manner. In that case, a pastor heard a confession of a defendant’s sexual assault of a young girl. But that conversation was found to be privileged pastor/congregant conversation (even though the confession was made in the presence of the defendant’s mother, who was also a church employee).
What are your thoughts on ‘notification’? As you pastor hurting (and troubled) people in your church and community, do you feel bound to report illegal (especially sexually deviant) behavior?
And do you know what the laws are in your state?
How does/will this kind of law affect the way you counsel and minister?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Save hours of your valuable time and keep up on the things you need to know! Purchase Ministry Briefing, May 2013
Switch to our mobile site