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Penitent Privilege Not Applicable When Religious Counselors Aren't Ordained, Court Rules

Court also limits penitent privilege to statements made in the sacrament of confession.

Key point: Statements made to a nonordained church counselors are not protected by the clergy-penitent privilege.
Key point: The clergy-penitent privilege has been limited in Washington state to statements made to clergy in the course of the sacrament of confession.

• In an unfortunate decision a Washington state court single-handedly repealed the clergy-penitent privilege outside of the context of penitents who make statements during the sacrament of confession. A woman served as a babysitter for a 3-year-old girl. One day the girl told her mother about sexual acts the babysitter had engaged in with her. The mother was shocked. She confronted the babysitter, who said that she had "not hurt" the child and that she had engaged in sexual acts "only a couple of times." The babysitter was later convicted of rape of a child in the first degree. At the trial, a religious worker ...

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  • November 1, 1995

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