George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, which was published 70 years ago, portrays a totalitarian world of censorship and ubiquitous surveillance where ordinary citizens are expected to report resistors who are then ruthlessly punished for their “thought crimes.”
Illinois State Representative Joyce Mason (D-Gurnee) has introduced HB 3402, onerous legislation that might have been taken straight from the pages of 1984. After laying out a long list of virtually every conceivable profession that involves human interaction, from school employees to public health workers to homemakers—an astounding list of over 80 professions—the bill demands that any possible infraction be reported to the “Department of State Police.”
If the proposed legislation were only about reporting serious crimes, it would have the sympathy of most Americans. However, throughout the bill the ambiguous term “neglect” appears again and again, a term which can mean virtually the slightest deprivation of anything a child is deemed to “need.” And apparently, under this legislation parents no longer decide what is right or wrong for their children.
Even more alarming, the legislation constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. Under the guise of “openness” and “transparency,” the bill threatens to put an end to a cherished tradition that is a vital ministry of American churches: the privileged confidentiality between pastors and congregants who seek them out for counseling. It essentially destroys the ability of pastors, religious counselors, psychologists and church-based ministries to perform their duties while protecting the privacy of their parishioners.
The legislation is very clear about this:
Under no circumstances shall any person in charge of such institution, school, facility or agency, or church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or other religious institution, or his designated agent to whom such notification has been made, exercise any control, restraint, modification or other change in the report or the forwarding of such report to the Department (of State Police).
A provision that allows a member of the clergy to claim the privilege of confidentially was deliberately struck from the legislation.
But this 1984 house of horrors has one final attack on people of faith: It addresses prayer, notably parents who seek help from God in the healing of illness:
A child whose parent, guardian or custodian in good faith selects and depends upon spiritual means through prayer alone for the treatment or cure of disease or remedial care may be considered neglected or abused.
Thus, praying for the healing of one’s child could be considered “abuse,” especially if one does not immediately rush the child to the doctor or hospital.
Take ACTION: Click HERE to send a message to your state representative to ask him/her to uphold clergy confidentiality and to oppose troublesome reporting requirements that should be outside the scope and authority of state government.
It is hoped that the good people of Illinois—those of diverse faith traditions as well as all who cherish religious freedom—will put a quick end to this blatant attack upon religion.
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