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Judge: Minister OK To Not Report Suspected Abuse

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IONIA (WWJ/AP) – A judge has ruled a western Michigan minister was not obligated to report to authorities when a woman told him she suspected her husband of sexually abusing her children.

Ionia Circuit Judge Susanne Hoseth Kreeger has upheld a district court judge’s decision dismissing a misdemeanor charge against the Rev. John Prominski of Resurrection Life Church.

Kreeger said the minister was protected by penitent privilege.

“The circumstances that Prominski was presented with were unique,” said Kreeger. The mother “was seeking guidance. There was that expectation for privilege.”

The county prosecutor’s office said it planned to appeal, WOOD-TV reported.

Authorities said the woman told Prominski of her suspicions in 2009, and he counseled her husband for several months.

The Sentinel-Standard said one girl confirmed in 2011 that her stepfather was abusing her. It says the mother went back to the minister, who told her he’d have to report the abuse if she didn’t.

The Michigan law governing clergyman-penitent issues are:

  • MCL 600.2156: No minister of the gospel, or priest of any denomination whatsoever, or duly accredited Christian Science practitioner, shall be allowed to disclose any confessions made to him in his professional character, in the course of discipline enjoined by the rules or practice of such denomination.
  • MCL 767.5a(2): Any communications between attorneys and their clients, between members of the clergy and the members of their respective churches, and between physicians and their patients are hereby declared to be privileged and confidential when those communications were necessary to enable the attorneys, members of the clergy, or physicians to serve as such attorney, member of the clergy, or physician.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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