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Pastor, Church & Law

written by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

The Clergy-Penitent Privilege—"Acting in a Professional Capacity as a Spiritual Advisor"

Volume 1 . Chapter 3 . § 3-07.4
Key point 3-07.4. In order for the clergy-penitent privilege to apply there must be a communication that is made to a minister acting in a professional capacity as a spiritual adviser.

Most clergy-penitent privilege laws require that the communication be made to a minister acting in a professional capacity as a spiritual adviser. Certainly there can be no expectation of confidentiality—and therefore no privilege—unless a statement is made to a minister acting in such a capacity.

If a statement is made to a minister as a mere friend, the privilege does not apply. To illustrate, a murder suspect's incriminating admissions made to a clergyman who was a friend and frequent companion were held not to be privileged. The court reasoned that ...

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