Fueling the debate over priest-penitent privilege, is the recent ruling in the Louisiana Supreme Court which states that a teenage girl’s confession to a priest can be used as testimony in a child abuse case. A recent article by The Washington Times says, the Diocese of Baton Rouge deemed the court’s decision a violation of the separation of church and state, and in a rare statement on legal proceedings, declared the ruling an infringement on religious freedom.
Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School professor, Kari Dalton, was consulted and offered her expert opinion on the decision. She says, “I think it’s a very interesting conflict placing priests between centuries-old holy rites and mandatory child abuse statutes.” Professor Dalton adds, “When you involve priests as mandatory reporters under child abuse reports in states, you run into lots of potential constitutional issues.”
Professor Dalton teaches Legal Research, Writing & Analysis I & II and Pretrial Practice & Procedure at the law school. She is also the author of “The Priest-Penitent Privilege v. Child Abuse Reporting Statutes: How to Avoid the Conflict and Serve Society.”