Ministerial Privilege

In general

• Except as otherwise provided by statute, the following persons shall not be required to testify regarding the following communications . . .

(3) Clergymen, as to the following confessions, admissions, or confidential communications:

(A) Confessions or admissions made to a clergyman in the course of discipline enjoined by the clergyman's church.

(B) A confidential communication made to a clergyman in the clergyman's professional character as a spiritual adviser or counselor.

IC 34-46-3-1(3)

• Observations and opinions based upon observations, even when those observations were made possible by the clergyman’s status, are not privileged.

See, e.g., Buuck v. Kruckeberg, 95 N.E.2d 304, 307 (Ind. Ct. App. 1950)

Confidential and part of pastoral discipline

• The communication to the clergyman must be confidential in order to be privileged.

See Shanabarger v. State, 798 N.E.2d 210, 217 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003)

• Waiver notwithstanding, the statements were not confidential communications under the privilege statute because Reverend Maynard [a police chaplain] expressly told Shanabarger [inmate/defendant] on both occasions that anything Shanabarger told him was not confidential. Moreover, he explained to Shanabarger that anything he said to him would be shared with the police.

Shanabarger v. State, 798 N.E.2d 210, 217 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003)

• We hold Lawson [a pastor] was not an incompetent witness. He testified that pastoral confession does not constitute one of the tenets or disciplines of his church. He also testified that his church does not recognize a confidential pastor-parishioner relationship with respect to evidence of a crime. Lawson stated that if a person were to talk to him about a legal matter, he would tell them that he would not “stand up” for him and would not keep the information confidential; instead, he said he would testify against someone if he learned from them that they had committed a crime. Lawson also stated that his status as a preacher would not affect his decision to testify against a person in that regard. Therefore, we conclude that Ball's admissions to Lawson were not made “in (the) course of discipline enjoined by” Lawson's church

Ball v. State, 419 N.E.2d 137, 140 (Ind. 1981)

• We would agree that the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation clearly falls within the strictures of the statute as confessions made to a clergyman in the course of discipline enjoined by the clergyman's church. However, one need not be well versed in the Catechism to recognize that Mullins' apology did not fall within the sanctity of confession. Here, only when confronted by the victim, who just happened to be a priest, Mullins apologized and promised to repay Fr. O'Connor. Further, this confrontation occurred in Fr. O'Connor's kitchen after he had specifically requested Mullins' presence. In light of these circumstances, we find no error.

Mullins v. State, 721 N.E.2d 335, 338 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999)

• DeFur testified that he is a farmer who belongs to Gideons International, a group of businessmen who also pass out the word of God. They present to prisoners a plan of salvation but they do not encourage them to make confessions. DeFur stated that the organization is comprised of businessmen of all denominations and is not affiliated with any church. From this evidence, we cannot find that DeFur is a “clergyman” . . . .

Rutledge v. State, 525 N.E.2d 326, 328 (Ind. 1988)

Statements of intentions

• Statements made to a clergyman about the testator’s intentions are not privileged.

See Farner v. Farner, 480 N.E.2d 251 (Ind. Ct. App.1985) [The court also found that the minister was not acting as a minister at the time the statements were made.]

Third-party disclosure

• If the statements are voluntarily shared by the testator or if the minister/pastor/priest is given permission to share the statements with a third-party, there is no privilege.

See Ball v. State, 419 N.E.2d 137 (Ind. 1981) [The pastor encouraged, and eventually convinced, the defendant to go to the police. Thus the pastor was competent to testify as to the defendant's confession in the murder prosecution.]