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Conversations Shouldn't Have Been Used for Prosecution

Man's confession of child abuse to pastor shouldn't have been used as evidence in court, under clergy-penitent privilege.

* The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a criminal defendant's conversations with a pastor were protected by the clergy-penitent privilege and therefore should not have been introduced as evidence by a trial court in the defendant's prosecution for child abuse. Two minor girls reported to their mother that their father (the "defendant") had sexually abused them. The mother then contacted her pastor and reported the children's allegations. Believing he had a duty to protect the defendant's wife and children, the pastor called the defendant at work to tell him he should not go back to his home. The defendant met with the pastor outside the pastor's home. The pastor later recounted that "without directly saying [he] sexually molested them … he acknowledged what he did." The defendant asked for counseling, but the pastor refused because he was "too angry" and the defendant needed psychological ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • September 1, 2011

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