I saw this story on a Mormon bishop who will be required to stand trial for failure to report child sex abuse. I still had on my mind the “religious freedom” issue of a Catholic-affiliated hospital being required to pay an insurance premium that covered contraception, and I got to thinking of parallels.
When the State imposes a duty to report child abuse, it imposes the duty on clergy (along with other citizens), without giving a blanket exemption for religious concerns. In some cases, it might offer a narrowly tailored exemption (e.g. granting immunity when the information is received by clergy during confession) but not a broader exemption for all religious concerns of a church (e.g. a religious preference for handling conflict between congregants internally, keeping secret (pdf) internal Church matters (see also here), or that the Church hierarchy is the proper authority for governing interaction between its priests and lay members of the Church.)
But, there has not been an outcry over the trampling of religious freedom when the State recognizes some but not all of the religious objections to state mandated activity. See here (pdf) for a summary of state laws concerning Clergy as mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. And in New Hampshire, West Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas, there is no exemption at all, not even in a clergy-penitent privilege in cases of child abuse.
The outcry that does not exist for duty to report abuse, even in the face of religious reasons not to report, by contrast, is a full-throated political roar in the case of paying insurance premiums that allow employees of religiously-affiliated institutions such as hospitals to obtain birth control. Why the discrepancy? That the former is a state intrusion on religious freedom and the latter is not doesn’t seem to be the answer; or at least a very incomplete answer. Rather, this looks to me like another stone to be thrown by those who don’t like contraception or the health care reform act in the first place.