Arkansas Clergy Law; who is protected from testifying in Josh Duggar child porn case?

Josh Duggar Trial

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – U.S. Circuit Court Judge Timothy Brooks did not make a decision today in the evidentiary hearing in the Josh Duggar child pornography case.

Duggar is facing charges of receipt and possession of child pornography.

Two people testified in Monday’s hearing- his father, Jim Bob Duggar and a family friend, Bobye Holt.

The defense claims Josh’s confessions happened with the understanding of clergy confidentiality under Arkansas’s clergy law. Jim Bob said the conversations are protected under the law because they were with leaders in their church. The prosecution, however, claims Josh confessed these things to adults without any religious undertone.

Attorney Tony Pirani is not involved in the case but spoke with KNWA/FOX24 about what kind of proection the clergy law in Arkansas provides. He said he cannot comment on whether the Duggar parents and Holts can be classified as clergy members– that will be up to the Judge Brooks

But, even if they are classified as clergy members, under Arkansas law, they are generally still obligated to report serious matters like these.

Pirani added that the testimonies from all four people in this situation would be significant in the trial.

I would say that any evidence that someone has admitted to a certain type of wrong doing, or has engaged in a similar type of wrongdoing in the past- if admitted at trial- it’s always going to have an impact on the jury.”

TONY PIRANI, ATTORNEY, PIRANI LAW PA

There are limited exceptions to the mandatory reporting based on how confidential that conversation was and if it was under certain religious disciplines, which Jim Bob is claiming applies in this case.

According to the state law database, clergy members and required reporters are defined as:

  • Any clergy member, which includes ministers, priests, rabbis, accredited Christian Science practitioners, or other similar functionaries of a religious organization or a person reasonably believe to be so by the person consulting him or her.
    • Except to the extent that the clergy member has acquired knowledge of the suspected child maltreatment through communication required to be kept confidential pursuant to the religious discipline of the relevant denomination or faith or received the knowledge of the suspected child maltreatment from the alleged offender in the context of a statement of admission.

Judge Brooks asked for more information to be briefed on this matter during the evidentiary hearing. He will then decide if the Duggar parents or Holts can testify during trial – where they will discuss Josh’s past behaviors related to this case.

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