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Bill that would force priests to violate Seal of Confessional withdrawn

The California state capitol (Getty)

The California bill's sponsor withdrew it at the last minute after realizing it did not have enough support

A California bill that would have required priests to break the Seal of the Confessional has been shelved at the last minute.

California Senate Bill 360 was pulled from the agenda for a committee hearing on July 8, effectively halting its legislative path.

The bill that intended to make clergy members mandatory reporters with no exemption for confidential communications, effectively forcing priests to violate the seal of confession.

State Senator Jerry Hill, who sponsored the bill, withdrew it after he realized it did not have enough votes to pass through the committee.

Hundreds of Catholics were expected to attend the hearing to protest the legislation.

Archbishop José Gomez, Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop of Los Angeles, called the bill “a dangerous piece of legislation” and had previously said it was “a mortal threat to the religious freedom of every Catholic”.

The California Catholic Conference said in a statement outrage towards the bill motivated “tens of thousands of letters, emails and phone calls from Catholic and others concerned with the free expression of religion.”

The statement also noted that the Public Safety Committee staff reported over 125,000 individuals had expressed their opposition to the bill.

Concerns about the bill prompted the Vatican to release a statement on July 1 saying “Every political or legislative initiative intended to ‘force’ the inviolability of the sacramental seal would constitute an unacceptable offense against the libertas Ecclesiae (freedom of the Church)”, according to Angelus news.

“I will go to jail before I will obey this attack on our religious freedom,” wrote Bishop Michael Barber, S.J. of the Diocese of Oakland, California after the bill had passed the Senate.

Barber said “no priest may obey” the bill and described it as “an attack on the very heart of our faith.”

In an early May article, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles Robert Barron said the legislation was “an egregious violation of the principle of religious liberty.”

Various other religious leaders, including those from Eastern Orthodox, Baptist, Anglican, Lutheran, Islamic, Jewish and other religious communities also spoke out against the proposed legislation.

Gomez said: “Religious freedom is one of the foundations of American democracy. It can never be acceptable for government to interfere in how people pray or worship or live out their beliefs in society. And a threat to the freedom of one faith will always be a threat to the freedom of all of us.”