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Some Arizona Lawmakers Fear Bill Could Shield Religious Organizations From Child Abuse Lawsuits

A bill passed in the Arizona House would make religious organizations essential businesses. By deeming them necessary and vital to the health and welfare of the public, the bill would make it impossible for future governors to shut them down during an emergency.

But Democratic lawmakers, like Rep. Melody Hernandez, say the wording in the bill is far more broad and could potentially shield religious organizations from child abuse lawsuits. 

"There is currently a worldwide, long-term scandal about sexual abuse of children in religious organizations. And this has resulted in many fines, fees, penalties and criminal sanctions against religious organizations. And I am incredibly concerned that this bill's prohibition would deny children victims any recompense for their abuse," Hernandez said. 

Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard disagrees and argues the bill protects religious organizations from discrimination, not from breaking the law. 

The bill now heads to the Senate.

News Politics
Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.