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Written Communications and the Clergy-Penitent Privilege

In some cases, a letter written to a minister may be protected.

Key point: In some cases, a letter written to a minister may be covered by the "clergy-penitent privilege" and accordingly immune from involuntary disclosure in a court of law.

• A Texas appeals court suggested that letters written to clergy may be protected by the clergy-penitent privilege if they otherwise qualify. A woman was prosecuted for the murder of her husband. A jury rejected her alibi defense that she was with her pastor at the time of the murder. The prosecution, in rebutting the woman's alibi defense, introduced into evidence two letters written by the woman to her pastor in which she urged him to testify that she was with him at the time of the murder. The letters warned the pastor that if he did not agree to testify that she had been with him at the time of the murder, she would "be forced" to disclose "the full truth" about their "personal relationship." The pastor, ...

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Posted:
  • January 3, 1994

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