"I have serious concerns about this bill and the effects it could have on religious leaders as well as their ability to counsel members of their congregation," he said in an email to the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. "I do not support this bill in its current form, and unless significant changes are made to ensure the protection of religious liberties, I will be voting against this bill."
Wilson had received hundreds of emails critical of the bill. CNA sought comment from Wilson but legislative staff said he had nothing to add at present.
The House Speaker's opposition to the bill could prevent it from a committee hearing. Romero said she looked forward to discussing the bill with the speaker.
"I'm hoping my colleagues will give this bill a fair hearing and they understand why this is an important piece of policy," Romero said. "I hope we can follow the lead of other states who have placed the best interests of children over religious institutions."
Several groups are calling for an end to the exemption, including the Truth and Transparency Foundation, which runs the controversial site MormonLeaks. The site publishes internal LDS documents relating to budgets, international relations and responses to sex abuse, among other topics.
The group said the exemption is "an affront to the safety and well-being of abuse survivors" that "provides an environment where predators are enabled," it said in a November 2018 email to state legislators.
Sam Young, a former LDS bishop who founded the group Protect Every Child, is also in favor of eliminating the exemption.
Young, who lives in Texas, was excommunicated from the religion after he advocated for an end to the practice of leaders having one-on-one interviews with children that sometimes included sexually explicit questions, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Mandatory reporting exemptions for clergy have been removed by North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, and West Virginia, the Deseret News reports. A California proposal to remove these exemptions was pulled from consideration.
Eric Kniffin, a Colorado lawyer and First Amendment attorney who followed the bill in California, told the Salt Lake Tribune that such proposals to remove clergy exemptions would "damage religious liberties." He cited the Catholic prohibition on clergy revealing anything said in confession on pain of excommunication.
In Kniffin's view, protecting clergy exemptions may provide greater benefits in the effort to address sexual abuse.
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"The confessional is not just a black hole," he said. "If a priest hears something in confession, they may urge the person to get help, talk to police or say 'talk to me outside of the confessional'."
Like Kniffin, Hill suggested removing legal protections for clergy would be counter-productive.
"There is no evidence that forcing priests to disclose cases of abuse learned of in the confessional would have prevented a single case of child abuse," she said in her Intermountain Catholic column. "On the other hand, there is every reason to believe the elimination of the privilege would mean that perpetrators would simply not bring it to confession."
The knowledge that confession is "a sacred conversation with God" would encourage Catholics to seek to make amends to both society and their victims. A priest who hears a criminal's confession can encourage the penitent to self-report to law enforcement or to seek counseling, or can offer to accompany him or her to report their crime.
"H.B. 90 is a bad law that does nothing to protect children and undermines the very real possibility that a sex offender might repent," she said.
While legislative counsel that reviewed Romero's bill said it did not violate any religious freedom, Hill invoked the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision Trammel v. United States, which cited the longstanding precedent of protecting confessions to clergy in its ruling on whether spouses enjoy privileges to refuse to testify against a spouse.