Teen who confessed rape says minister was wrong to tell police

Feb 8, 2012

The Michigan Court of Appeals will hear a case Thursday about whether clergy can to testify about what parishioners confess regarding crimes.

The case involves a Belleville Baptist minister who questioned a then-15-year-old parishioner about the rape of a nine-year-old girl.

The boy confessed. The minister told police and later testified at trial.

The boy’s lawyer says that was a violation of Michigan’s priest-penitent privilege,  and a circuit court judge agreed.

Robert Sedler is a Constitutional law professor at Wayne State University.

He says the priest-penitent privilege is a matter of state law,  but not a constitutional requirement.

"If it decides that it is admissible, that doesn't violate any religious freedom guarantee of the Constitution," Sedler says.

Sedler says there are certain rules of evidence that some kinds of communciations can be kept secret,  such as between a lawyer and client and a doctor and patient.