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Michigan Court of Appeals rules in favor of minister who didn't report suspected child abuse

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Court of Appeals says a minister cannot be charged with failing to report child abuse based on conversations with a parishioner.

The court ruled those were privileged conversations.

This particular question had never been litigated before. And it is how far do privacy protections for clergy extend when it comes to reporting child abuse?

In this case, a woman went to her pastor, John Prominski, for advice when she suspected her husband was abusing her daughters. Their first talk was in 2009.

Two years later, in 2011, Prominski convinced the woman to turn in her husband after it appeared the abuse had continued.

But authorities said Prominski should have turned in the husband after that first conversation.

The Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court and said that’s not the case – that a conversation between a member of the clergy and a parishioner seeking advice is every bit as protected as what’s said in confession.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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