Every state has a statute or court rule making certain communications to clergy "privileged." This generally means that neither the minister nor the "penitent" can be forced to testify in court (or in a deposition or certain other legal proceedings) about the contents of the communication.
Pastors can use these eight questions to understand whether or not a statement or a conversation could be considered privileged by a court of law.
1. Is there a “communication”?
If you answered yes to this question, go to question 2. If you answered no, the clergy-penitent privilege does not apply.
Read the next two paragraphs to learn what a “communication” can include.
Usually, a “communication” refers to an oral conversation. This can include phone conversations. It can also include correspondence (such as letters and emails) and even gestures or other physical acts if intended to transmit ideas.