Court Says Pastor May Not Testify on Confession

May 9, 2012

The state Court of Appeals says a Baptist pastor may not testify about the confession allegedly made to him by a member of his congregation.

The pastor summoned a teenager and his mother after learning the teen had been accused of sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl. During the course of the meeting, the pastor says the teen confessed what he had done. The prosecutor tried to use that against the teen once he was formally charged with a crime. The defense tried to suppress the pastor’s testimony, arguing there is a confidentiality privilege between a cleric and a member of the congregation.

The appeals court agreed and says the pastor’s testimony cannot be used. 

But the court said its ruling is very narrow. It did not issue an opinion on whether a pastor is barred from reporting a crime that’s about to happen, or speak to authorities about a concern based on a confidential conversation. That, the court says, will be another case for another time.