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Clerical Privilege and the Law

posted on June 20, 2012

Writing for The Wall Street Journal, David Skeel, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, discusses the “clergy-penitent privilege.” As the New York State provision puts it, “a clergyman, or other minister of any religion or duly accredited Christian Science practitioner, shall not be allowed to disclose a confession or confidence made to him in his professional character as spiritual adviser.” Skeel explains that there are limits to this privilege, notably that “[e]very state requires professionals, often including clergy, to report evidence of child abuse.” However, as highlighted in the case of Pedro Hernandez, who recently confessed to the murder of Etan Patz, “the requirements are aimed at abuse by a parent or guardian; they do not appear to cover the murder of a child by a stranger.”

Read at The Wall Street Journal