Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
First Amendment Religion Clauses Prohibit Court from Resolving Confidential Communications Claim
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Key point 3-08.09. Clergy can be liable for disclosing communications shared with them in confidence to others without the permission of the counselee.

A Louisiana appeals court ruled that the First Amendment religion clauses prevented the civil courts from resolving a parishioner's claim that a priest improperly disclosed his confidential communications without permission. A parishioner (the "plaintiff") learned that a priest had disclosed to others the fact that he had visited the priest for confession, as well as the substance of what was said. The plaintiff sued the priest for invasion of privacy. His lawsuit made the following assertions:

A foundation doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church for thousands of years mandates that the seal of confession is absolute and inviolable.
Pursuant to his oath to the Church, a priest is compelled never to break that seal.
Neither is a priest allowed to admit that someone went to confession to him.

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