Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Speaker Philip Gunn writes bill to make what he is doing in child sex abuse case illegal

File this one under "H" for hypocrite.

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.


(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).
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.


bill said...

The whole thing at Morrison Heights stinks, but were any laws broken by anyone other than Langworthy? I think there's a need for stronger reporting requirements, and I think it's courageous for Speaker Gunn to take the lead in doing something about it, especially since he knows it will put him right back in the crosshairs of those who would be critical of his role in the Langworthy case. Bill Billingsley

bill said...

FYI, the bill just got passed out of Judiciary B.

Anonymous said...

I suppose in Mississippi this is just more business as usual from Gunn's side of the aisle. Hypocrisy is not a term or concept that apparently is at all understood by these folks. Maybe Barbour already granted him God's redeeming Christian grace and forgiveness, similar to the pardongate matter. Wonder if next Gunn will submit legislation to name the Southaven City Hall after Mayor Greg Davis?

bill said...

Billy, you are prolific in the number of comments you can make but they all say the same thing. When are you going to participate in an actual debate rather than just spouting the same anti-Republican rhetoric every time you comment? I know you don't like Republicans. Can't you talk about anything else?

Start with the Child Protection Act. Good bill? Bad bill? Why does it matter who authored it? Bill

Anonymous said...

Bill - Frankly, and I am no lawyer mind you, I think there are probably plenty of laws already on the books, probably even here in Mississippi, dealing with the fact that people, including juveniles and adults, of either sex, religion, ethnicity, whatever, should not sexually molest children, or for that matter, anybody. Common sense dictates to common, regular, every day citizens that any knowledge, any visual or hearing knowledge, any real suspicion, on the part of anyone at all who would have any reason at all to be in contact with a child, or an adult, that has one small iota of an inkling that sexual molestation is, was, has been, or might currently be, going on, NEEDS TO CONTACT THE POLICE!

Gunn travels down one of these roads on this: Being a licensed attorney and officer of the court, he honestly sees and feels the need to strengthen state law in this area, and has subsequent knowledge that led him to this conclusion. He is actually, intellectually insufficient enough to be so clueless that he is doing this to score political points, to pander to a certain constituency of his, not even realizing in his own mind that he himself, taking into account his own past actions in regards to the child sexual molestation scandal at his own church, has played a somewhat significant role in it by going directly to the parents of the molested children involved in order to negotiate some sort of secret settlement, thus BYPASSING the most glaring aspect of the crimes, which was and is to report them to the POLICE TO HANDLE. OR, Gunn's actions in all of this are purely intended with 100% goodwill and legitimate care and concern for Mississippian's who have been, or might become victims of this particular type of crime, and the people, citizens, voters, victims, law enforcement and social workers, psychiatric specialists prosecutors, Judges etc. have approached him to submit this type of legislation.

I hope that helps you in trying to understand where I am coming from on this issue, and thank you for inquiring about my position on it.

JudyJones said...

The best legislative remedy is to extend or eliminate the archaic, arbitrary, predatory-friendly statute of limitations. Lawmakers who REALLY want to safeguard kids will push for that type of reform.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511
"Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" and all clergy.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

bill said...

I don't doubt that everyone associated with the Langworthy ordeal wishes they had handled it differently. Neither do I doubt the Speaker's sincerity in wanting to get a good law on the books that will force future situations into the hands of law enforcement. Bottom line? It's a good law that we've needed for a long time, and I hope it's vigorously enforced. Bill

bill said...

Billy, your explanation is certainly more civilized than your original post. I think Gunn's heart is in the right place and he realizes - maybe partially because of what happened at Morrison Heights - that the new law is needed. Sorry if you disagree, but I know the man and he's not intellectually or morally deficient enough to fit the other possibilities you offer. Bill

Curt Crowley said...

Ms. Jones, the Mississippi statute of limitations does not apply to Sex crimes against a child or to felony abuse or battery of a child. Does Snap have any other solutions in need of a problem?