Friday, August 22, 2008

Cleric-Penitent Privilege Held Inapplicable Where Pastor Is Not A Spiritual Advisor

In State of New Jersey v. J.G., (NJ App. Div., Aug. 20, 2008), a New Jersey appellate court held that a conversation between a clergyman and a father accused of sexually abusing his children was not protected by the state's cleric-penitent privilege. The children's mother reported the abuse to Pastor Glenford Brown who then contacted the father. While Brown knew the father, the father did not attend Brown's church. The court held:
(1) defendant did not ask and Brown did not offer to keep the conversation confidential; (2) Brown reached out to defendant – not as a spiritual advisor – but to protect defendant's children; and (3) Brown specifically told defendant he could not counsel him or even baptize him because defendant needed professional help. Clearly, the conversations between defendant and Brown are not protected by the privilege.
Yesterday's New Jersey Star-Ledger reported on the decision.