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Privileged and Confidential Communications

The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that statements made by a pastor to a denominational official concerning his wife's sudden death in a bathtub were not protected by the clergy-penitent privilege.

Key point 3-07.4. In order for the clergy-penitent privilege to apply there must be a communication that is made to a minister acting in a professional capacity as a spiritual adviser.

Key point 3-08.05. In most states a counselee can waive the clergy-penitent privilege by disclosing the privileged communication to someone other than the minister. In some states the minister also may waive the privilege.

The Clergy—Penitent Privilege

* The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that statements made by a pastor to a denominational official concerning his wife's sudden death in a bathtub were not protected by the clergy-penitent privilege and therefore could be used in a murder prosecution of the pastor. Early one morning a pastor called 911 for emergency assistance. Sharon, his wife of 33 years, lay naked and unconscious in the bathtub of their home. The first persons to respond found her face ...

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Posted:
  • July 1, 2002

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