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Can Church Records Be Subpoenaed?

A Pennsylvania court tackles the issue.

Pennsylvania
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A Pennsylvania court tackles the issue-Commonwealth v. Stewart,
690 A.2d 195 (Pa. 1997)

[ The Clergy-Penitent Privilege, Inspection of Church Records]

Key point. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the clergy—penitent privilege did not excuse a Roman Catholic diocese from turning over internal documents pertaining to a priest in response to a subpoena. The court's ruling provides useful guidance to churches in deciding how to respond to a subpoena requesting the disclosure of church records. This feature article reviews the facts of the case, summarizes the court's ruling, and evaluates the practical significance of the case to other churches.

What if your church were served with a subpoena demanding that various financial records, membership records, and a pastors counseling notes be turned over to an attorney? How would you react? Many church leaders consider such demands ...

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  • July 1, 1997

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