Key point 3-07.02. In order for the clergy-penitent privilege to apply there must be a communication that is made in confidence. This generally means that there are no other persons present besides the minister and counselee who can overhear the communication, and that there is an expectation that the conversation will be kept secret.
The clergy-penitent privilege only protects confidential communications. This requirement can be traced back to the original formulation of the clergy privilege, when it was restricted to confessions. However, as the privilege evolved beyond the confines of a confession, the requirement of confidentiality was retained. This makes sense, since if a person is willing for others to overhear a conversation he or she is having with a minister, then there is little reason why jurors should be denied access to the contents of that conversation.
This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."
Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.