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Pastor, Church & Law

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

The Clergy-Penitent Privilege—Defining "A Communication"

Volume 1 . Chapter 3 . § 3-07.1
Key point 3-07.1. In order for the clergy-penitent privilege to apply there must be a "communication." a communication includes verbal statements, but it also may include nonverbal acts that are intended to transmit ideas. Mere observations generally are not considered to be communications.

The privilege against divulging confidential communications extends only to actual communications between an individual and a clergyman. Communications obviously include verbal statements, but they also can include nonverbal forms of communication. One court ruled that the delivery of a gun to a minister constituted a "privileged communication" that was not admissible in court. A New York City police officer, who also served as assistant pastor of a local ...

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