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House Rejects Bill To Add Clergy, Dental Hygientists To List Of Child Abuse Reporters

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The South Dakota House is rejecting a bill that adds clergy and dental hygienists to the list of those who must report child neglect or abuse.

Under current law, physicians, dentists, chiropractors, paramedics, law enforcement, teacher and others are all mandatory reporters of child abuse.

Representative Erin Healy is the prime sponsor of the bill. The Sioux Falls Democrat says the bill aims to further protect children.

“As a person of faith, myself, I believe we need to look out for our most vulnerable and ensure that everyone is looking out for them,” Healy says. “This bill was to really help educate people and educate clergy so they can do the right thing.”

Critics of the legislation say they worry it would interfere in the confession process.

An amendment to the bill exempted communications made during a clergy’s capacity as a spiritual adviser, which includes confession. The amendment was rejected by procedure. The bill failed to receive a majority vote of members elect. In that case, absent votes are considered a no vote.

The amendment did receive a majority vote of members present. Democrats insist the amendment passed and point to procedure rules.

The unamended bill failed 30 to 35.