when does church discipline get involved?

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Mr_Dove
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when does church discipline get involved?

Postby Mr_Dove » Sun Aug 23, 2015 8:49 am

Through confidential sources, I am aware that a highly respected member of my ward is under investigation by Child Services for child abuse and child sexual abuse. HIs wife and children have already fled and she filed for divorce. Child services has been interviewing the children but nothing is complete yet. This is not a criminal investigation yet. It could become one depending on the evidence and testimony of the children. The wife and battered woman syndrome and refuses to speak out against him. The interviews with the children are revealing troubling stories though.

Nobody else in the ward (including the bishop) knows anything about this. At what point will church discipline get involved? This member is well respected and currently in good standing. Do I have any obligation to let the bishop know what I know?

russellhltn
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Re: when does church discipline get involved?

Postby russellhltn » Sun Aug 23, 2015 11:05 am

See Handbook 1: 6.3 and 6.4. The process starts when the Bishop hears about a possible transgression. And I would tell him now - in part for the safety of others. However, any further action may be limited until the official investigation is complete. It's unclear what "complete" is, as counseling with the church's legal office is involved. It's possible there will be no "visible" response until conviction. But that doesn't mean there's nothing going on very quietly and privately.
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simonawright
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Re: when does church discipline get involved?

Postby simonawright » Sun Aug 23, 2015 12:52 pm

I don't know how it is where you are but if I came by some information at work, that was confidential, I wouldn't be able to share it with my Bishop no matter how well intentioned my motives were.

If you had contact with any member of the family involved in this sad situation then you could ask them to mention something to the Bishop and not breach any professional standards of behaviour. As I mentioned above I am not aware what your particular situation is and how the rules of confidentiality apply to you.

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Re: when does church discipline get involved?

Postby russellhltn » Sun Aug 23, 2015 1:04 pm

simonawright wrote:I don't know how it is where you are but if I came by some information at work, that was confidential, I wouldn't be able to share it with my Bishop no matter how well intentioned my motives were.

Good point. You'd need to find another way to get the information to the bishop's attention.
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lajackson
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Re: when does church discipline get involved?

Postby lajackson » Sun Aug 23, 2015 2:18 pm

Mr_Dove wrote:Through confidential sources, I am aware that a highly respected member of my ward is under investigation by Child Services for child abuse and child sexual abuse. . . .
Do I have any obligation to let the bishop know what I know?

The laws for reporting child abuse vary by state. In my state, if I know that Child Services is investigating the matter, I am relieved of reporting responsibility, as is the bishop. The law may be different in your state, but in most cases, once the state knows, even if it is not yet public, the reporting rules change.

Pay attention to what simonawright said. In this situation, if you are not at liberty to share anything with the bishop, then do not. If a member of the family would mention it to the bishop, that would be helpful.

A lot depends on your confidentiality situation and where the brother is currently serving. If you are able to confidentially inform the bishop, if that will not trigger a reporting requirement or violate your work confidentiality, you probably ought to do that. If this member is serving in a calling the bishop may wish to release him sooner rather than later. But I realize it's not like you can just go up to the bishop and tell him Brother So and So needs to be released without giving him something further to go on.

I would try to figure out a way to let the bishop know about the situation if the member is serving in a calling where other members may be at risk from his actions.

At some point it will become public and you will want to follow through at that point to see that the bishop is aware of the circumstances.

As for Church discipline, Handbook 1, Chapter 6, explains that Church discipline is partly to determine membership status, in addition to helping the member repent. Normally leaders allow civil and criminal matters to be handled by community authorities and do not rush to hold any sort of Church disciplinary council until the facts are known. This does not keep the bishop from immediately placing appropriate restrictions on a member when he first learns of the transgression.

A bishop must always consult with the stake president before convening a disciplinary council, and if the member holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, the stake president will take jurisdiction in a case such as this one.

And as you prayerfully consider what to do, it may be something as simple as confidentially asking the bishop if he is aware that the wife has left and why. If not, a suggestion then that he may wish to contact her to find out why might be enough, without you having to violate any confidentiality related to your work. Or you night encourage the home teachers to report the move. That alone should trigger the bishop to interview the brother.

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gregwanderson
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Re: when does church discipline get involved?

Postby gregwanderson » Sun Aug 23, 2015 10:47 pm

In the past, the church has paid millions of dollars to settle cases in which victims have claimed that local leaders somehow protected abusers and, therefor, allowed them to continue to victimize others. Now the church makes it clear that its first priority is to protect the victims of abuse and local leaders are required to consult with CHQ when they become aware of abuse. This also prevents the local leaders from violating laws about reporting abuse and protects the church itself from liability. It is not up to the Bishop to decide how to handle these situations on his own.

So the question in this particular case might be this: When you, as member of the church, know there's a problem but you don't report it to the Bishop, does that amount to you (a member of the church) protecting an abuser and could someone bring a civil suit against the church (or you) for not taking action to protect potential victims? (It may seem too cynical to believe that, with millions of dollars at stake, a lawyer could be motivated to try to make the case… if there were another victim at this point, at least.) It seems like you ought to be able to call the same hotline that the Bishop would call in order to make sure you're handling things right.

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Re: when does church discipline get involved?

Postby lajackson » Mon Aug 24, 2015 9:35 am

gregwanderson wrote:So the question in this particular case might be this: When you, as member of the church, know there's a problem but you don't report it to the Bishop, does that amount to you (a member of the church) protecting an abuser and could someone bring a civil suit against the church (or you) for not taking action to protect potential victims?

That is a good question, but was not the question in the original post. In this case, the abuse already is being investigated, so it would seem that the abuse has been reported. The question was what obligation the person had to report the confidential information he held to the bishop, as balanced by the confidentiality requirements of what I assume to be related to his profession (but he never said that), along with the additional query as to when does Church discipline get involved.

Church discipline, if needed, gets involved when the bishop becomes aware of the situation and discusses it with the stake president.

As to your question, it is actually a legal one, and I am not an attorney. I would think in the situation you propose that you as the member have failed in your reporting requirement under the legal statutes and could be held responsible. The Church would not be unless you reported it to a leader in the Church (bishop) and they did not make sure it got reported to the authorities. Then you would both be responsible until it got reported to the civil authorities.

I am aware of a situation where a member requested and received permission to discuss what he knew with the Church help line. The bishop made the call, introduced the member, then left the room while the member spoke with headquarters.

I have said what I said knowing the laws of the state where I reside. Different states have different laws. In some states, calling the help line is sufficient to report because the help line then makes a report to the state. In my state, you report to the state or make sure someone else reported it, or you are criminally liable.

It is not a happy situation. Each case is different. The original poster will know what to do in his circumstances.

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johnshaw
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Re: when does church discipline get involved?

Postby johnshaw » Mon Aug 24, 2015 9:44 am

Regardless, as a 'highly respected' member of the ward does that include having teen-age girls under his influence, boys? Girls?, kids? etc.. seriously, if there is concern that victimhood could continue in the ward it doesn't matter when the 'church disciplinary' stuff gets involved. You're first duty is to your own family, but get it reported to the church in any and every way you could possibly do so.
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russellhltn
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Re: when does church discipline get involved?

Postby russellhltn » Mon Aug 24, 2015 10:25 am

If workplace confidentiality is involved, it would be a good idea to discuss this with a supervisor. I'd think any agency would have an interest in keeping others safe and may allow disclosure to the bishop and/or help line.

I think I'm safe in saying that church policy is to inform the bishop and/or Help Line. But if you have a concern about violating workplace confidence vs. legal requirement to report, I'd suggest you find an attorney. Taking legal advice from an internet forum isn't a good idea - this forum is no exception. What's more, the legal situation could be different from state to state.
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gregwanderson
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Re: when does church discipline get involved?

Postby gregwanderson » Mon Aug 24, 2015 1:42 pm

lajackson wrote:The question was what obligation the person had to report the confidential information he held to the bishop, as balanced by the confidentiality requirements of what I assume to be related to his profession (but he never said that), along with the additional query as to when does Church discipline get involved.

Just trying to clarify my thinking: What if there's a new victim and the contact between perpetrator and victim was through a church calling? Could someone make the case (or at least drag the church into court) that since a member of the church was aware of the danger (although that person is not the Bishop) and there was no action by "the church" to prevent contact then "the church" should be punished? I know it sounds like a long shot but I certainly wouldn't want to be the one whose action/inaction were responsible for the church being dragged into something like that.


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