A mandated reporter is a person who is legally required to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the relevant authorities. Teachers and psychologists are some examples of people that are required to report any known abuse. The laws are in place to prevent children from being abused and to end any possible abuse or neglect at the earliest possible stage.
Historically, American law has protected a clergy-penitent privilege for a religious confessional that is similar to attorney-client privilege. In other words, clergy are not required to tell anyone about any abuse or rape they know about. Only seven states have laws requiring priests to report this information.
Catholic priests are not the only people who hear people's confession in religious contexts. Scientology uses a process known as auditing which allegedly helps people "rid themselves of their spiritual disabilities." Like priests they are exempt from having to report any abuse they've learned about in a confession or similar process, and do not have to provide testimony in a court of law.
A lot of people have come forward to report their experience of sexual abuse within all kinds of religious institutions. Many times people in the church know what is going on, but do nothing to stop it. A bill that started making its way through the California legislature last year would have made CA the first since 1999 to require priests to choose between violating the law or violating the seal of the confessional.
As predicted, virtually every religious institution fought back and the law was withdrawn. One bishop argued, "If any legislature can force believers to reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings shared with God in confession, then truly there is no area of human life that is free or safe from government. Another added, "Surely murder, theft, spousal abuse, child neglect and rape are terrible crimes. Would the state determine that priests are obligated to report these offenses to the authorities, should they hear of them in the confessional?"
Um... sure, why not?
The argument is that forcing individuals to choose between the most sacrosanct part of their religious beliefs and imprisonment is what the Bill of Rights was entirely meant to avoid. Do you agree, and if so do you agree to the point where that applies to clergy and confessionals from ALL religious denominations? For instance, if I said I shouldn't have to report child molestation that I know is occurring because of my devout Pastafarianism and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, would that be acceptable? And if you don't agree, explain why you think the 1st amendment does not apply to rape or child abuse.
(Posting in the Religion forum to see if perspectives differ from the Politics forum.)