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Application of Child Abuse Reporting Laws to Pastoral Counselors

Nussbaumer v. State of Florida, 882 So.2d 1067 (Fla. App. 2004)

Case summary

A Florida court addressed the legal duty of ministers to report incidents of child abuse that are communicated to them in confidence in the course of spiritual counseling. This article will summarize the facts of this important case, explain the court's ruling, and evaluate the significance of the case to ministers and churches.

Many ministers have faced the question of whether to report child abuse that is disclosed to them in the course of a conversation protected by the clergy-penitent privilege. Does the clergy-penitent privilege, which prevents certain communications to ministers from being admissible as evidence in civil or criminal trials, relieve ministers from a legal duty to report child abuse?

A recent case in Florida addressed an attempt by a prosecutor in a criminal case to compel a pastoral counselor ...

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