Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect - Florida

Date: May 2023

The Requirement for Clergy to Report 

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 39.201

Any person is required to report immediately to the central abuse hotline if they know or have reasonable cause to suspect that abuse or neglect of a child has occurred.

Privileged Communications

Ann. Stat. §§ 39.204; 90.505

Only the attorney-client and clergy-penitent privileges (as provided by § 90.505) are permitted in situations involving known or suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by the reporting laws.

The term 'member of the clergy' includes a priest, rabbi, practitioner of Christian Science, or minister of any religious organization or denomination usually referred to as a church or an individual reasonably believed so to be by the person consulting them.

A communication between a member of the clergy and a person is confidential if made privately for the purpose of seeking spiritual counsel and advice from the clergy member in the usual course of their practice or discipline and not intended for further disclosure except to other persons present in furtherance of the communication.

A person has a privilege to refuse to disclose, and to prevent another from disclosing, a confidential communication by the person to a member of the clergy in their capacity as spiritual adviser. The privilege may be claimed by the following:

  • The person
  • The guardian or conservator of a person
  • The personal representative of a deceased person
  • The member of the clergy on behalf of the person

The member of the clergy’s authority to claim privilege is presumed in the absence of evidence to the contrary.