Thursday, August 21, 2008

Clergy-Penitent Privilege Held Inapplicable When 3rd Party Is Present

In Candice S. v. Superior Court, (CA Ct. App., Aug. 11, 208), a California appellate court held that the clergy-penitent privilege does not apply to communications made to a member of the clergy in the presence of a third person, even if the tenets of the religion treat the communication as confidential. Applying that principle in a child custody case, the court held that statements by the child's mother and father in group meetings with elders of the Jehovah's Witness Church are not privileged. In the meetings at issue, both the child's mother and father, or at least one of them and the child's grandparents, were present. In one of the meetings, the father admitted that the child was conceived when he raped the mother at a drive-in movie theater while she was under the influence of prescription pain killers. At two other group meetings, the elders discussed that admission.