District attorneys meet with faith leaders on GA clergy law - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

District attorneys meet with faith leaders on GA clergy law

Clergy gathers to discuss GA law (Source: WALB) Clergy gathers to discuss GA law (Source: WALB)
D.A. Greg Edwards (Source: WALB) D.A. Greg Edwards (Source: WALB)
Craig Earnest (Source: WALB) Craig Earnest (Source: WALB)
Jeremy Horne (Source: WALB) Jeremy Horne (Source: WALB)
Bishop Frederick Williams (Source: WALB) Bishop Frederick Williams (Source: WALB)

South Georgia prosecutors updated dozens of pastors, ministers, and faith leaders on the Georgia law that requires them to be mandatory reporters.

Clergy leaders spoke out about the law that says they could be prosecuted for not reporting certain crimes by their congregation members.

Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards and Pataula Circuit D.A. Craig Earnest explained the Georgia law, that requires all church employees and volunteers working with children to be mandatory reporters.

If anyone suspects child abuse or neglect, they must report it or face prosecution themselves.

"We feel so responsible because that is out call from God. And so to know our boundaries and to know where we are most helpful is very impactful to our people," said Bishop Frederick Williams.

Prosecutors want the clergy to be able to explain the law to their church or organization, and set up practices to comply.

"Help them understand what the law requires. A lot of people don't know that pastors and ministers are mandatory reporters. And it's very important that they do report child abuse," said Earnest.

Prosecutors say faith leaders are often first responders in child abuse criminal cases.

"Either the person who might be in trouble or the person who has been a victim or something will call the faith leader. And we want them to have tools that they can use to help address these situations," Edwards.

Clergy members say they are glad to be able to get questions answered about the law.

"There is a lot about the judicial system and a lot about the law, and it changes so much, and we're always wondering. Something like this gives us a wonderful opportunity to ask questions and get feedback specific to thing we have experienced," said Pastor Jeremy Horne.

One thing the D.A.'s wanted the clergy to be sure of is if they have any reason to suspect child abuse or neglect, report it to law enforcement and let them investigate.

The mandatory reporting law applies to all church employees and even volunteers who work with children. 

The D.A.'s recommended the pastors to develop a written plan for everyone to read and understand.

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