Aug 19, 2022 - Politics

Gov. Spencer Cox says he'd back a bill requiring clergy to report child abuse

Photo illustration of Utah Governor Spencer Cox with lines radiating from him.
Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Office of Governor Spencer J. Cox

Gov. Spencer Cox addressed a number of issues during his monthly PBS Utah news conference on Thursday. Here's what stood out:

1. High school athlete complaint

Cox said he was troubled by a complaint made by the parents of two high school girls alleging a student-athlete who beat their daughters in a sports competition of being transgender.

  • What happened: Without sharing specific details, Utah High School Activities Association spokesman Dave Spatafore told lawmakers during an Education Interim Committee meeting at the Utah Capitol this week that the school investigated the complaints.
  • They looked into the accused student's kindergarten school records and confirmed she was listed as a girl.
  • Spatafore said UHSAA never notified the student in question or her parents about the inquiry to protect them.

What Cox said: "We're living in this world where we've become sore losers. … We're looking for any reason to figure out why our kid lost. I just wish we could be a little more thoughtful in life and a little less critical of other people."

ICYMI: A Utah law that bars transgender girls from competing in school sports matching their gender identity is currently being challenged in court.

  • Cox vetoed that bill earlier this year, citing the mental health impacts it would have on LGBTQ students, but it was overridden by the Utah Legislature.
2. Clergy reporting proposal

Cox said he would potentially support and sign legislation that would make it mandatory for clergy to report child abuse to law enforcement.

Context: Reps. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, and Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, say they plan to introduce legislation next year that would strike a "clergy exception" to require religious leaders to report child abuse, Deseret News reported.

  • The move came after a bombshell AP story reported Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint bishops' alleged failure to alert authorities of ongoing child sex abuse.

What Cox said: "I think we all have a duty to speak out and to protect our children, our most vulnerable."

3. Liz Cheney's loss

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, a critic of former president Donald Trump, lost in Wyoming's primary earlier this week. Cox said he admired anyone "willing to stand up and say what they believe in" — regardless of political affiliation.

  • Ultimately, he said, the decision was up to Wyoming voters.
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