Skip to comments.Supreme Court upholds rape conviction, rejects religious privilege argument
Posted on 08/22/2013 7:16:39 AM PDT by Morgana
The state Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the rape and sexual assault convictions against Ernest Willis who is serving a 15-to-30 year prison sentence for forcibly raping his teenage babysitter twice, whom he knew through Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, in 1997.
The court issued its ruling this morning.
The girl, who became pregnant, was later made to stand before their congregation to apologize by then-pastor Chuck Phelps. A Merrimack County jury convicted Ellis of three counts of rape and one count of felonious sexual assault in 2011.
Williss attorneys appealed the conviction on several grounds, including the admission of testimony from Phelps, who told jurors Willis had confessed to twice having sexual contact with the 15-year-old girl and described himself as the aggressor.
In their appeal, attorneys for Willis asked the Supreme Court justices to decide whether the trial court erred in deciding that conversations between Willis and his Phelps werent protected by religious privilege.
(Excerpt) Read more at mobile.concordmonitor.com ...
I thought that was attorney client privilege?
“Where There’s A Will;There’s A Way”?
Apparently the child molester confessed to the “pastor” and the child molester was trying to keep that confession out of court.
Is Chuck related to Fred?
What is it with guys named Phelps pastoring churches?
Are there no millstones for Willis?
I hope the congregation has worked to make amends to the girl.
I thought that if a lawyer knew a crime was committed he has the obligation to report it. Same with religious privilege. Maybe a lawyer person here can answer .....
**whom he knew through Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, in 1997.**
Most rapes/sexual molestations are carried out by someone the child already knows.
“Is Chuck related to Fred?
What is it with guys named Phelps pastoring churches?”
Was wondering the same thing. Remind me never to go to a church that has a “Phelps” pastoring it.
I don’t know the details regarding the confession by Willis to the pastor. In almost all instances of true confession, I’d be on the side of the confidentiality of the confessional.
Just talking to your pastor is not “the confessional”.
The whole point of an exception is that it must be in regard to a religious moment taking place at that time in the life of the confessee.
I don’t consider discussing baseball scores, also a conversation be pastor and parishioner, to be confidential.
Nor will I consider confidential anything about a crime that one PLANS to commit that will potential injure someone. I tell them that ahead of time. Both the penitent and I have a duty to prevent that injury from taking place.
It is entirely possible that Willis came to his pastor in a religious moment seeking guidance. That is something I would consider absolutely confidential.
If a discussion is about how to keep it from coming out in public, then I don’t consider that religious.
Sharia law will overturn this principle.
In most states clergy (along with doctors, therapists, etc.) are classified as mandated reporters when it comes to child abuse. The protection of the minor trumps the clergy-confessor relationship.
True, and as Protestant Christians confessing a sin does not mean you get off scott free, you still need to make amends or answer to justice. When a serious crime is committed the pastor should council the person to give himself up and confess to the police then do it himself if this person does not turn himself in.
He needs to not just shepherd this one man but his flock and the community as a whole from further damage or danger.
I know that was the case for chaplains in the military, a requirement to report. But most of us chaplains realized that the confidentiality was the only reason people would self-report. Obviously, if you know you’re going to get reported, for the most part you won’t talk to anyone.
Many chaplains ignored that must report provision, and particularly Catholic Chaplains for whom the confession, iirc, is a sacrament.
If there is no safe place to disclose, then folks won’t disclose.
Before counseling with anyone, I would always tell them straight up what I would and what I would not disclose. That put it in their ballpark.
Only if that's your agreement ahead of time.
I am absolutely honest about what will and what will not be confidential. I will tell a person that if they have done x,y,or z that I must report if they tell me.
If they reveal, I'll encourage them to self-report and I'll go with them.
But I'll not give the impression something is confidential and then play "gotcha" with a person. That is a violation of confidentiality AND of integrity.
So a guy comes to you and says, “I have raped my babysitter and would like to confess this sin.”
To you, the pastor should keep it confidential?
And what if he comes back the next week with the exact same confession because he did it again?
Do you at least have a 3 strikes you’re out policy when it comes to child molestation? Or in your view could this guy go on indefinitely?
ok. Your #13 makes sense.
So what you are saying is that it is up to the person he confesses this information to, to then say “no go confess to the police because it’s the right thing to do?” Or at least that is what they should have done?
I have also seen your #15, so I know we agree for the most part.
However, there is such a thing as a religious moment that hits someone, and they go to the pastor and get it off their chest in a time of confession and prayer. I would consider that confidential.
The NEXT time it’s done, it is common for the discussion to turn in the direction of “how do I keep this from becoming public?” I don’t consider that to be a religious moment.
In any case, unless a moment just happens, I’m very clear about what is or is not going to be kept confidential.
If you tell me someone is GOING TO BE injured, then it hasn’t happened yet, and there is a responsibility to keep it from happening. (That includes real suicide threats.)
The abuse cycle means that abusers have a strong tendency to abuse again. But I’ll not misrepresent to people. I won’t tell them something is confidential and then go turn them in.
Right. No matter what I’d encourage the person to given himself/herself up.
In the long run, that’s what’s best.
Most counselors tell their clients up front that they are obligated to report certain confessions of crimes to the police.
In this case, the pastor gave his testimony in court. And the child molester tried to get the testimony thrown out.
Additionally, I would like to know at what point the pastor made the rape victim “confess her sin” in front of church.
Did he make her confess knowing that she was raped by the older man? Or was that fact not known yet?
Lawyer person here:
1. If a lawyer is told by a client that the client committed a crime (past tense), the lawyer is duty-bound by confidentiality not to say anything about it.
2. The lawyer cannot, however, represent to the court that the client did not commit the crime. (This doesn’t mean the lawyer can’t question the sufficiency of the evidence and cross-examine and present evidence of alternate scenarios. In other words, “There’s not enough evidence my client did X” is fine. “My client didn’t do X” isn’t.
3. The lawyer also can’t help hide any evidence.
4. Religious privilege is really rooted in priest-penitent privilege. Without splitting a bunch of ecclesiastical hairs, the Catholic faith believes that when you speak with your priest it is a conduit to God, and hence is not discoverable. Other faiths, which do not carry that belief, do not have the same privilege. So, if you’re a Catholic, it’s safe to blab to your priest about your misdeeds; if you’re a Methodist or Lutheran or pretty much anything else, I’d think twice about it.
Thank you. I appreciate your answer and the time you gave giving it.
I was pleased (surprized actually) when I first read this - but then I realized it was only a state court, and means nothing against the 5-4 bias of the US Supreme COurt.
THen ialso realized that the ruling was AGAINST religious right of the confessional, but it was a Protestant minister, not a Catholic priest.
BUT - similar process, what are “they” the US “spremes” going to say when the “inevitable” Muslim Sharia law case comes up in front of them? \
I can see it two ways:
Rule against “Right’s of the Religion” (rule down confessional privacy) in favor of the “State’s rights” to persecute (er, prosecute) their enemies. Particularly since that rules against the Catholic religion - which liberals hate and despise. Protestant religions get a “by” since they don’t carry that confessional privacy. Maybe. (Like you point out, there can be “grey” areas since the confessional boundaries are not as specific in different conversations.)
Besides, “some” protestant religions are “friendly” to the liberal dogma, and some are enemies. Who the Dept of Injustice decides to persecute will depend of which church is being sued/convicted for the confessional privacy. And who is Attorney General. But, more important, what the liberal religion decides they want their Supreme Court to rule.
Regardless, 4 of the Supremes will do EXACTLY what they are told every time.
Second: If (when!) Sharia Law comes up, 4 of those Supremes will do what they are told to do: Rule FOR the Muslims in power in Washington.
(PS. My uncle was 30 year Army Chaplin, retired back to priest duty into Bastrop-Austin TX as a traveling priest. We always kidded him that he couldn’t pickup a steady parish job because he had too many Masses served on the hood of jeep in the 50’s and 60’s in Vietnam, Germany, Hawaii, and Turkey.)
I was really confused by the phrase “of his teenage babysitter”. I couldn’t figure out how a kid who was young enough to require a babysitter could rape her more than once, or be sentenced to prison.
I had to research to learn that she was not this guy’s “babysitter”, she was hired by this guy to BE a babysitter.
Pastors are trained to warn people they are counseling of what illegal activity they do have to report.....at least the ones I am friends of or mother too.
I have been a pastor a long time and am a retired US Army chaplain. There are some instances in which folks just start talking, and you, as a minister, know that it’s a confessional moment. In a more formal setting, you would have walked them through the issues, but in an informal one it blows your mind sometimes how people will just lay things out.
A lawyer is an officer of the court. He answers to the legal system, and must follow their rules.
I'm going to answer from the Catholic perspective on the religious side, because that's what I know.
A Catholic priest's rules are from God, and are distinctly above whatever the local laws say.
Confession is a sacrament of the Catholic Church. Priests do not have a blanket obligation to report crimes to police, in fact they are violating the sacrament if they repeat anything they have heard in confession to anyone. That is a sin for them to do so. I'm sure there are times where they must make the decision to violate that sacred trust, but those are few and far between.
At least that is my understanding, but it has been a long time since catechism class.
That's interesting, if true, but I suspect it's not. I don't see how it would work, in any case. Isn't the "mandated reporter" class tied to professional licensing? If a doctor fails, his license is revoked.
The State has no power to revoke the license of a Priest.
I went and looked up the law in my state, Washington. Here is the list of mandatory reporters directly from our DHS Web Site:
Who is Required to Report Child Abuse and Neglect?
The Mandatory Reporter's Video (see links to the video in the box on the right side of this page) provides guidance for those who are required by state law to report child abuse or neglect.
Any person who has cause to believe that a child has suffered abuse or neglect should report such incidents.
Those people legally required to report child abuse or neglect are:
- Medical practitioners
- Social service counselors/therapists
- Medical examiners
- School personnel
- Child care providers
- Law enforcement officers
- Juvenile probation officers
- Corrections employees
- DSHS employees
- Placement and liaison specialists
- Responsible living skills program staff
- HOPE center staff
- State family and children's ombudsman
- Any volunteer in the ombudsman's office
- Adults residing with child suspected to have been severely abused
It sort of seems like priests and pastors *should* be on the list, but they are not, probably for the reason I cited.
Thanks for your reply. My thinking is what Yashua said about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto G-d what is G-d. When a person commits a horrendous crime and confesses to a priest to me the obligation is for the priest to report it. I understand about how does a priest differentiate between crimes. I’ve not read anywhere in the NT where such confessions are sacred. Just my opinion.
Oregon does list Pastors as required reporters, but then carves out an exception for them, and for lawyers!
419B.010 Duty of officials to report child abuse; exceptions; penalty. (1) Any public or private official having reasonable cause to believe that any child with whom the official comes in contact has suffered abuse or that any person with whom the official comes in contact has abused a child shall immediately report or cause a report to be made in the manner required in ORS 419B.015. Nothing contained in ORS 40.225 to 40.295 or 419B.234 (6) affects the duty to report imposed by this section, except that a psychiatrist, psychologist, member of the clergy, attorney or guardian ad litem appointed under ORS 419B.231 is not required to report such information communicated by a person if the communication is privileged under ORS 40.225 to 40.295 or 419B.234 (6). An attorney is not required to make a report under this section by reason of information communicated to the attorney in the course of representing a client if disclosure of the information would be detrimental to the client.
Again, it *seems* like what you asserted should be correct, but it's not. At least not where I live.
Have any counter examples? Maybe it's an East Coast thing, they seem to favor the new rights of the State of long established civil rights of the people, so I'd sort of expect "no exceptions" out there.
Since the girl became pregnant, I doubt there’s much point in discussing confidentiality. You can’t keep a pregnancy hidden for very long.
And as for her having to stand up before the congregation and apologize?!?!?!
That pastor ought to have his credentials pulled and apologize to the girl in front of the whole congregation for the humiliation he caused her and the further trauma inflicted on her in addition to the rape and being blamed for it.
He doesn’t deserve to ever stand in a pulpit again. He has shown that he does not have the discernment, wisdom, or integrity to lead a congregation.
I agree wholeheartedly.
“And as for her having to stand up before the congregation and apologize?!?!?!”
I don’t mean to sound flippant but this was Trinity Baptist Church. That meant by their standards it was the girl’s fault she was raped. She did something to cause the pastor to lust for her, so she needs to pray to God for forgiveness and hope she is made pure again.
Yes Trinity Baptist and a lot if IFB churches are known for this attitude.
Now you can get angry with me on this if you want but I can direct you to several websites that show abuse stories after abuse stories in Baptist churches just like this one where the girl(s) was sexually abused and the church(es) blamed the victim and covered it up.
I don't practice crim law but it's when a crime is ABOUT TO BE committed (not after the fact). If my client told me he was going to commit a rape and then went out towards committing that crime, I'd then have to report it.
Makes sense. Thanks. Wonder if this goes for the priests as well.
Why should I get angry with you for pointing out their policies?
They’re wrong, plain and simple.
How muslim of them.
I agree with his unfitness for leading a church. However, there are instances when a pastor should reveal things said to him, but he should make clear what those instances are before he lets someone just launch into talking about their issues.
I dont mean to sound flippant but this was Trinity Baptist Church. That meant by their standards it was the girls fault she was raped.
And they actually consider themselves Christian churches?
Do Baptists look upon this sort of thing like a Sacrament with the seal of confession?
“So, if youre a Catholic, its safe to blab to your priest about your misdeeds; if youre a Methodist or Lutheran or pretty much anything else...........”
Going to confession is not the same as ‘blabbing to a priest’. If the person confessing thinks it is, then it is an invalid confession. A strong sense of remorse is needed to be forgiven any sins. Only God will know if that remorse id sincere. The priest is an intermediary between the sinner and God giving the penitent counseling, and advise for spiritual strength. Part of that advice is to make the good for the bad behavior - go to the police, ask forgiveness from the person you wrongs, return stolen property, etc.
Confession is not magic, but it is a mystical thing in that it involves our spirit and God. God does not forgive chameleons.
“And they actually consider themselves Christian churches?”
They said it not me.
I knew that. More of a rhetorical question.
I didn’t mean to downgrade the solemnity of confession, I was just turning a phrase to explain what one could or could not do. I appreciate, though, the more refined religious perspective than mine.