Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) has introduced "The Mississippi Child Protection Act of 2012" today, which is almost identical to bills he has filed in the past. In that bill, Gunn seeks to make it illegal to not report suspected child sex abuse to authorities within 48 hours of gaining knowledge of it.
Why is that hypocritical? Well, Gunn became aware sometime in the last 18 months of allegations that the children's music minister at his church, Morrison Heights Baptist in Clinton, had molested young boys. According to some, Gunn then went on to try to quiet those reporting the alleged crimes. He then went even further, instructing the members of his deacon committee (of which he is chairman) to not cooperate with law enforcement investigating the now-indicted abuse cases against the minister.
That would be illegal under Gunn's legislation, which in pertinent part reads as follows:
(d) "Mandatory reporter" means any of the following individuals performing their occupational duties: health care practitioner, member of the clergy, teaching or child care provider, police officer or law enforcement officials, or commercial film or photographic print processor.Interestingly, this legislation has been a pet issue of Gunn's over the years. He filed legislation almost identical to this in 2010 (Section 3) and 2009 (Section 3). Tellingly, though, not in 2011, which would have been around the time the children's music minister supposedly confided in him and the other deacons about the molestations.
(f) "Member of the clergy" means any priest, rabbi, or duly-ordained deacon or minister, except that the clergy member is not required to report a confidential communication that is protected as a function of the church, but shall then encourage that person to come forward and report the allegations to the proper authorities.
(3) Mandatory reporter requirements. A mandatory reporter shall report every instance of alleged or suspected sexual abuse. The mandatory reporter may not use the reporter's own discretion in deciding what cases should or should not be reported to the appropriate law enforcement or relevant state agency.
(4) Mandatory reporting procedure. If a mandatory reporter has cause to believe that a child has been subjected to sexual abuse, the mandatory reporter shall make a report no later than the forty-eighth hour after the abuse has been brought to the reporter's attention if the reporter suspects sexual abuse. A mandatory reporter may not delegate the responsibility to report sexual abuse to any other person but shall make the report personally. The mandatory reporter shall make a report to the local law enforcement agency, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety or the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
(6) Failure to report. Any mandatory reporter who has reason to believe that a child's physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected due to sexual abuse and willfully does not report such sexual abuse as provided by this section, upon conviction thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable as provided in Section 43-21-353(7).