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What Constitutes "Spiritual Counsel"?

The clergy-penitent privilege applies only in situations of spiritual counsel.

• A Louisiana appeals court ruled that two ministers could testify in court concerning confessions allegedly made to them by a murder suspect. The murder suspect was convicted of the second degree murder of his wife largely on the basis of the testimony of the two ministers. The conviction was appealed on the ground that the statements to the ministers were protected by the clergy-penitent privilege and accordingly should not have been used in court. The appeals court rejected this claim and affirmed the conviction. It began by quoting the Louisiana clergy-privilege statute: "No clergyman is permitted, without the consent of the person making the communication, to disclose any communication made to him in confidence by one seeking his spiritual advice or consolation, or any information that he may have gotten by reason of such communication." The suspect was a good friend of one of ...

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  • November 2, 1992

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