Some Christians Are Siding With Scientologists in a Key Abuse Case: One issue: Does California law hurt non-Catholic churches? Another issue: The allegations are horrific. →
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 Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) and the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization.
DeCrescenzo is suing Scientology and alleging a number of abuses, including a forced abortion when she was 17. The California courts have ordered Scientology to turn over the records. Scientology has complied, but asked the Supreme Court to overturn the order, arguing that the conversations were protected by the state’s clergy-penitent privilege.
In California, clergy may invoke the privilege even if the parishioner waives it. However, the privilege only stands if the conversation took place between one clergyperson and one parishioner. The courts ruled that since 259 Scientologists reviewed DeCrescenzo’s documents, they’re no longer confidential. And even though Scientology leaders have argued that all of the reviewers were clergy sworn to secrecy, that’s still 258 too many, according to the California courts. If the case is allowed to stand, clergy in California will not be able to rely on the privilege if they share penitent conversations with other church leaders.
I don’t know about you guys, but if me and 258 of my closest friends were all accused of abusing a teenage girl and forcing her to get an abortion, the last thing I’d do to assert my innocence would be to assert that the court has no right to look at documented evidence of what I told her.
What are they even saying here? “We have nothing to hide, therefore, we’re not gonna show you anything!”