Church of God Legal Appears in Noted Publication

Director of Church of God Legal Services Dennis Watkins is quoted extensively in the latest issue of “Church Law & Tax Report,” a review of legal developments affecting ministers and churches. Founded in 1987 it is published by Christianity Today and considered the most respected legal publication dealing with matters of church law and tax issues.

The March/April issue contains a special section dealing with child abuse reporting laws. It lists 21 facts church leaders should know when dealing with the delicate subject in church circles. According to the article, Watkins, who also serves as Legal Counsel for the Church of God, receives about three calls a month inquiring about child abuse laws and the legal procedures church staff and workers are required to follow when incidents occur. These calls come from pastors, youth pastors, and children’s ministry directors.

“It’s just such a precarious environment anymore to decide not to report that I’ve taken the position we need to find a way to report [all suspected abuse],” Watkins said in the article. Every state has child abuse reporting laws and as front line observers of children who often come into their care, church leaders are considered “mandatory reporters,” and failing to report to state authorities can have dire consequences, not only for the individual, but for the local church as well.

The article in CL&TR, which is available by subscription, lists the 21 ways how state laws define who must report actual or suspected abuse, when a report must be made, and how. The facts include, “Clergy shouldn’t assume the clergy-penitent privilege exempts them from making a report,” “Civil liability for churches whose mandatory reporters fail to report,” “Following chains of command,” “Confidentiality of a mandatory reporter’s identity,” and “When an adult reveals they were abused as a minor.”

Watkins pointed out that legal counsel for denominations often provide information, resources, and guidance. Several of these resources are available on the Church of God website, In addition, a supplement to the article in CL&TR is a state-by-state review on requirements and responsibilities concerning mandatory child abuse reporting laws.

“It was an honor to be quoted in this publication and to represent the Church of God in this way,” Watkins stated. “This publication is so respected across the nation among lawyers and denominational legal counsels that deal with these kinds of critical situations every day.” Watkins went on to compliment the assistance of Lee University graduate student Michaela Micco who spent hours in research and documentation contributing to the report.

Additional information and resources concerning mandatory child abuse reporting laws in the church, as well as numerous other topics are available

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