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Don't Stop at Church on the Way to Turn Yourself In

While confession may be good for the soul, it won't do much for your criminal record, at least not in Montana. The Religion Clause blog has a blurb about a case decided by a Montana trial court back in May where the court refused to suppress testimony about the defendant's confession to a pastor of his involvement in a homicide.

I'm going on the blurb alone (those of you with access to Lexis can find the case, State v. Hardman, at 2010 Mont. Dist. Lexis 209), but the court seems to have premised its decision on two main factors.

First, the pastor told the defendant that if he confessed to anything criminal, the pastor would notify the authorities. Seems like that would have been a good time to say, "Oh, criminal, me? No no no, just swung by to drop some ammo money in the collection plate. Bless you too." and hightail it out of there. But instead, said the court, the defendant waived any confidentiality by going on and spilling his guts.

The court also cited the Montana statute covering confessions made to clergy:

A clergyman or priest cannot, without the consent of the person making the confession, be examined as to any confession made to him in his professional character in the course of discipline enjoined by the church to which he belongs.

This confession was apparently not made to the pastor "in his professional character in the course of discipline" of the church. I don't know if that's a commentary on the church itself (the Faith Chapel), or the pastor's duties, or just belt and suspenders for the waiver argument.

But I'd sure be more careful about what I tell my priest/rabbi/Imam/operating thetan if I lived in Montana.

Posted by Eric Lipman on September 22, 2010 at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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