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August 23, 2013

COA holds that clergy-parishioner privilege extends to statements made regarding third parties

In People v Prominski, the Court of Appeals considered whether a clergy member had an obligation to report suspected child abuse.  There, a parishioner told her pastor that she was concerned that her husband might be sexually abusing her daughters, and sought his advice regarding the situation.  Although a mandatory reporter, the pastor did not report the suspected abuse.  He was charged with failure to report child abuse.  The pastor argued that he was not obligated to report because the clergy-parishioner privilege protected the communication.  The Court of Appeals agreed.  A statutory clergy-parishioner privilege exempts clergy members from reporting requirements where their information comes from a communication “made to a member of the clergy in his or her professional character in a confession or similarly confidential communication.”  MCL 722.631.  The Court held that the mother’s communication in this case was a “similarly confidential communication,” because she had an “expectation that the information w[ould] be kept private and secret.”

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