HB 309: What pastors need to know about new law & reporting abuse

HOUSE BILL 309: REQUIREMENTS FOR MINISTERS

On March 30, the last night of the legislative session, the General Assembly passed House Bill 309 relating to the reporting of incidents of domestic and dating violence and abuse. The legislation includes some provisions that apply to an “ordained minister or denominational equivalent…or any organization or agency employing any of these professionals” as defined in the legislation. House Bill 309 was one of the legislative priorities of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

In a recent newsletter, the KCADV broadly outlined the statutory changes that resulted from this legislation. The organization stated that HB 309 replaced “spouse abuse mandatory reporting (already applicable to ministers under KRS 209A.030(2)) with a requirement that a broadly defined group of professionals must provide potential victims of domestic or dating violence and abuse” with information and educational materials that may be helpful.

“Professional” as defined in the legislation includes the following occupations:

physician, osteopathic physician, coroner, medical examiner, medical resident, medical intern, chiropractor, nurse, dentist, optometrist, emergency medical technician, paramedic, licensed mental health professional, therapist, cabinet employee, child-care personnel, teacher, school personnel, ordained minister or the denominational equivalent, victim advocate, or any organization or agency employing any of these professionals.

This legislation eliminates certain mandatory reporting provisions that exist under current statutory law, however, it requires a professional to provide certain information to a potential victim which is now available at KCADV.org.

Here are a few of the provisions of House Bill 309 that relate to professionals (including ministers) and some related concerns about the legislation.

  • If requested by a victim of domestic or dating violence or abuse, a professional, which includes a minister, must report the incident to a law enforcement officer. The report must be discussed with the potential victim prior to reporting. HB 309, Section 5. (This provision may actually reduce the number of incidents of domestic or dating violence or abuse that are reported. It certainly could put a professional in the awkward position of not reporting violations of which he is aware because he was told not to report and then being confronted with failing to report and having to prove that he was advised not to report.)
  • If a professional, which includes a minister, believes that the death of a potential victim was due to dating or domestic violence or abuse, the minister must report his or her belief to a law enforcement officer. HB 309, Section 6.
  • If a professional, which includes a minister, reasonably believes that a parishioner with which he has a professional interaction has experienced domestic or dating violence or abuse, the minister must provide educational materials about domestic or dating violence or abuse and where the victim can obtain information and help. HB 309, Section 8. (A brochure with the necessary information to be provided is now available at KCADV.org, see 209a referral information. The requirement to provide this information throughout the state will be challenging given that there are so many churches of various denominations, including small rural churches and bi-vocational pastors who may not have access to the internet.)

Professionals are shielded from civil and criminal liability for making reports or providing the necessary information required by House Bill 309. Conversely, the professional can be held criminally responsible for knowing or wanton failure to comply with the law.

House Bill 309 is effective as of Thursday, June 29, 2017. In addition to information and educational material provided on their website, the KCADV has three webinars scheduled on June 30, July 7, and July 14 to outline the requirements of the new law.

If you have any questions about this legislation, please feel free to contact me at (502) 330-5024, or e-mail me at [email protected]

 

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