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The Church of Scientology is asking the Supreme Court to let it use clergy-penitent privilege to keep secret more than 18,000 pages of documents on former member and employee Laura DeCrescenzo. It has picked up some unusual allies—the National ...

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James Cowles

September 30, 2013  8:28pm

@Jason Landless: "The difference in this case is that one of the parties of the macabre, grotesque "confessional" rite that Scientology runs, WANTS the material to be disclosed to prove that she has been abused by that church. That is quite different to a confessional situation in Roman Catholicism (or any other church) where the law might want the disclosure of the material against the wishes of both parties." Yes, but the Court would have to figure out a way to "navigate" around the "establishment" clause, because it would be privileging one theological paradigm / understanding of confession -- the Catholic 1-on-1 paradigm -- over that of the Scientologists if it ruled against the latter. Not saying this cannot be done, but it would take some fancy constitutional footwork.

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Jason Landless

September 30, 2013  8:24pm

The difference in this case is that one of the parties of the macabre, grotesque "confessional" rite that Scientology runs, WANTS the material to be disclosed to prove that she has been abused by that church. That is quite different to a confessional situation in Roman Catholicism (or any other church) where the law might want the disclosure of the material against the wishes of both parties. Anyone who sides with Scientology on this are standing up for the "right" of churches to engage in abusive, and possibly criminal conduct, without censure or transparency from the law.

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JOHN WETZEL

September 30, 2013  9:54am

My first experience with Scientology was years ago when a college student came into my office with a serious concern. She said she had been a member of my denomination but had joined Scientology (COS) on campus. However, when she told them she was leaving because it was becoming too expensive, she alleged that they told her that as long as she remained in the COS her auditing would be private. But if she left they would become public knowledge. I went to the COS and found a group of smiling, friendly young people and thought the student who came to me had a problem and lost contact with her. Within a year the first evaluation of the COS, "The Scandal Of Scientology" was written by Paulette Cooper. It gave the first review of a very dangerous group. Since then, I have heard personal allegations that accused the COS of revealing the confidential materials to following defections of persons from the group.

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James Cowles

September 30, 2013  8:33am

I will put a clothespin on my nose, be careful to breathe through my mouth, hold an airline nausea bag close by, and vote to uphold the Scientologists' mode of clergy-penitent confidentiality. For SCOTUS to privilege 1-on-1 confidentiality would be to privilege one theology of confession, which would violate both the "establishment" & "free exercise" clauses of the 1st Amendment. The Scientologist practice would be an abuse of this prerogative. But in a free society, there will always be such abuses. Mobsters will hide behind the 5th Amendment; pornographers, behind the "abridgement" clause; gun nuts, behind the 2nd; etc., etc. it's something the vast majority of decent people have to put up with as part of the downside of ordered liberty.

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Robert Hughes

September 29, 2013  11:23am

Laws regarding confidentiality and privileged information are designed to protect the client, consumer, or "penitent" in this case, not the clergy (or health care provider, etc.). If the penitent in this case wants to have her records revealed to support an allegation of abuse, the clergy (regardless of religious orientation) shouldn't be allowed to hide behind "clergy-penitent" privilege.

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Thomas Gary

September 28, 2013  2:24pm

Never side with SCIENTOLOGY on anything, much less the case of someone being "disciplined". They shut people up in virtual prisons for many perceived sins. This isn't about religion. It's about abuse. If America can, please shut down this scam as a religion! But they've got big money...

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Sarah Smith

September 27, 2013  5:57pm

The issue here isn't an issue of religious liberty. It is an issue of a non-religious mafia-like organization using religious freedoms as a guise to cover illegal and immoral behavior.

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David Randall

September 27, 2013  3:06pm

I am dumbfounded that any Christian would consider this a "religious liberties" case. Where do we get this idea that "they are a church so we have to take their side"? The seal of the confessional has only one religious purpose and that is to allow someone the benefit of confession or counsel without fear of what they say being used against them, not to allow a church to conceal illegal activity. The church obviously violated the seal themselves by allowing access to the material by literally hundreds of people (clergy or not). Neither is this a case of property rights as another comment suggests, regardless of what someone may have signed. These rights provide no protection against a subpoena. Neither do these records involve anything that might be considered a "trade secret". The judge clearly decided correctly, and Christians who take the side of the Scientologists make us all look like self-interested idiots.

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Joe Farah

September 27, 2013  2:59pm

I'm confused. I thought it was the penitent who is trying to get the records from Scientology. In the first few paragraphs this appears to be what it says. The confidentiality is intended to protect the client/penetent, not the clergy. Am I missing something. I re-read the first few paragraphs and this does not add up. What gives?

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Dean Fox

September 27, 2013  2:47pm

There is another issue in the US, does separation of church and state put churches above the law? Clearly some churches feel it does but then why do they feel the need to be above the law? This again brings into question the function of churches in society. Should "religious freedom" put churches and clergy above the law. While the law as it stands in California seems to favour the catholic church one must remember that this church has abused it status by "dealing" with paedophiles internally. It is time to remove that privilege in California so all churches can be made to release any records of confessionals if the penitent so wishes it. If this is about "religious freedom" it is about the freedom of religion to disregard the law of the land which reflects moral norms and that is wrong.

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Dean Fox

September 27, 2013  2:35pm

The priest penitent privilege protects priests from being compelled to give up confessions to the authorities. This in turn protects the penitent from having their confessions used against them in a court of law. By protecting the priest from being compelled to give up confessions it protects the penitent. The penitent is therefore the sole subject of the protection. In this case the penitent wants to waive this privilege, it being theirs to waive not the church's. There was never any intention to provide protection to the church because, if anything, the function of churches in society is to uphold moral values, as such they should never need such a protection. To argue otherwise is to suggest churches are not always upholders of moral values, which is a whole can of worms, especially after the, mainly Catholic, child abuse scandals. For churches to support possible immoral behaviour in any form for any reason is foolhardy at best.

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Liz Martin

September 27, 2013  1:52pm

Scientology requires you to sign a myriad number of legal forms to participate in it. It is covered by trademark and trade secret laws. Its doctrine is copyrighted to try to prevent independent practice of it. Many of the forms are available at http://www.exposescientology.com/scientologycontracts.html specially in the 'Members' section. Here is a part of one form about the folders in question. "5. I specifically acknowledge and agree that all of my PC Folders and other ecclesiastical files containing notations regarding my spiritual progress, as well as the contents thereof, are the sole and exclusive property of Church of Scientology International. They are not mine and I have no legal, ecclesiastical or other rights whatsoever with respect to them."

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Displaying 1–12 of 12 comments.

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