In Idaho, a clergyman or priest is not legally obligated to report cases of domestic violence confessed to him or her by patrons of the church.
And Canyon Country Prosecutor Bryan Taylor and Sheriff Kieran Donahue said certain beliefs within churches can make it difficult to carry out the legal process surrounding domestic violence. Some religions, they said, believe domestic issues are family related and should stay that way, never seeing the light of the legal system.
But even though church leaders aren’t obligated to report domestic violence, many they say they do everything possible to point victims and abusers toward counseling — in and outside their churches — and the law when a situation arises.
“I’ve got a lot of room to do nothing,” First United Presbyterian Church Pastor Bruce Swanson said. “Then you let something go — it’s just not right. There would be a number of ministers in our area, in certain denominations, that would tell me that I was wrong — that we should handle it within.”
Brian Whitlock, communications director for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in his church if an abuser came forward through the repentance process, ecclesiastic leaders would encourage self reporting if the abuser believed he or she broke a law.
“From a moral standpoint … (the church would) offer encouragement that we can for that individual to make things right with the law,” Whitlock said.
He said there is also professional help available within the LDS church to help counsel those involved in domestic violence.
Swanson said he believes there is a moral obligation from every minister to ensure that something is done about domestic violence issues either in or outside church walls.
“There are people in the community that can help that are more than likely not in the church,” Swanson said.