New Bill Forces Pastors to Take Mandatory Training
New Bill Forces Pastors to Take Mandatory Training
Written By Andrew Willis   |   03.28.17

Novelist Vikram Seth wrote, “God save us from people who mean well.” Who are among those well-meaning people from whom we desperately need saving?


In a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to attack the widespread and grievous problem of domestic violence, State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) is pushing SB 912. The bill would force religious leaders to undergo domestic violence recognition-training within one year of their initial employment and every five years thereafter.

The bill amends the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act which requires a wide range of professions, including medical professionals, teachers, and foster parents, to report any signs of domestic abuse to authorities. However, SB 912 singles out only religious leaders to take the mandated training.

This is a deeply troubling development.  The state of Illinois has no business requiring clergy to do anything.  It is easy to see how a precedent like this could lead to additional mandates that would pit secular values and beliefs against orthodox Christian values and teachings.

Moreover, the bill’s scope is not limited to pastors, priests, or heads of a ministry. Under the Act, clergy is defined as any “practitioner of any religious denomination accredited by the religious body to which he or she belongs.” This language is broad enough to include elders, deacons, and even school teachers in some denominations.

The First Amendment prevents civil authorities from interfering with the establishment of religion, which is clearly involved here. Never before has the state dictated forms of training for religious leaders, and one can foresee new types of training down the road. What is to prevent the state from mandating other types of training such as sensitivity-training toward sexually immoral lifestyles?

Setting aside the laudable intentions of this proposal, we cannot emphasize enough just how dangerous this precedent is to religious liberty and the rights of conscience.

While the bill mentions no penalty for the refusal of religious leaders to take the training, it is not known  whether this means there will be no consequences for refusal to comply or whether penalties are to come.

Finally, who is going to pay for this training? Thousands of people across the state will be mandated to take this training on a regular basis which will be costly. The bill does not state whether the clergy or the state will pay for it. Clergy generally do not have the funds to take on extra costs, and the state of Illinois is certainly not in a position to increase spending.

Many denominations already provide training to  help leaders recognize signs of domestic abuse. State interference in the training of religious institutions is an unreasonable, unnecessary, and unconstitutional response to the problem of domestic abuse.

Take ACTION: Click HERE to send a message to your state senator, urging him or her to oppose state-mandated training for religious leaders.

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Andrew Willis
Andrew is an associate attorney at Mauck & Baker, LLC, a Christian law firm in Chicago which works to promote religious freedom around the nation. He graduated with honors from the Chicago-Kent College of Law where he was here he served as an Executive Articles Editor for the Chicago-Kent Law Review, and was president of the Federalist Society and Christian Legal Society Student Chapters. Prior to lawschool, Andrew joined the Illinois Family Institute in 2012 as in intern, and quickly became a vital part of the IFI Team helping out with social media outreach, video production, graphic design and the...
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