Key point 3-08.11. The clergy-penitent privilege applies to confidential communications by counselees while seeking spiritual advice from clergy. As a result, it does not apply to church records, with the possible exception of written notes kept by clergy of communications covered by the clergy-penitent privilege.
What if your church were served with a subpoena demanding that various financial records, membership records, and a pastor's counseling notes be turned over to an attorney? How would you react? Many church leaders consider such demands to be inappropriate, and resist turning over internal church records. Is this a legally appropriate response? Does the law exempt churches from having to turn over internal church records in response to a subpoena? These are important questions for which there has been little direction from the courts.
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