‘Law and the Church’ Posts
List nine (9) laws concerning clergy that you have found by searching your state/provincial laws.
1. Confidential Communications
Clergy within the state of Pennsylvania are protected under state law for Judiciary and Judicial Procedure § 5943 (TITLE 42 JUDICIARY AND JUDICIAL PROCEDURE § 5943 Confidential Communications to Clergymen.) which states that:
No clergyman, priest, rabbi or minister of the gospel of any regularly established church or religious organization, except clergymen or ministers, who are self-ordained or who are members of religious organizations in which members other than the leader thereof are deemed clergymen or ministers, who while in the course of his duties has acquired information from any person secretly and in confidence shall be compelled, or allowed without consent of such person, to disclose that information in any legal proceeding, trial or investigation before any government unit.
This essentially states that Clergypersons are protected from being forced to report information learned during solicited Clergy council or discussion in confidence without consent from the person in question.
2. Reporting Child Abuse
Subchapter § 6311 for Judiciary and Judicial Procedure (TITLE 42 JUDICIARY AND JUDICIAL PROCEDURE SUBCHAPTER B. § 6311 Persons Required to Report Suspected Child Abuse.) continues with:
§ 6311. Persons required to report suspected child abuse.
(a) General rule.—A person who, in the course of employment, occupation or practice of a profession, comes into contact with children shall report or cause a report to be made in accordance with section 6313 (relating to reporting procedure) when the person has reasonable cause to suspect, on the basis of medical, professional or other training and experience, that a child under the care, supervision, guidance or training of that person or of an agency, institution, organization or other entity with which that person is affiliated is a victim of child abuse, including child abuse by an individual who is not a perpetrator. Except with respect to confidential communications made to a member of the clergy which are protected under 42 Pa.C.S.
§ 3490 Except with respect to confidential communications made to an ordained member of the clergy which are protected un 42 Pa.C.S. § 5943 (relating to confidential communications to clergymen), privileged communication between a required reporter and the person’s patient or client does not apply to situations involving child abuse and may not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by this chapter.
This states that Clergypersons are not required to report child abuse if the report was during a confession or solicited private conversation with Clergy. This law also applies to attorneys.
3. Persons qualified to solemize marriages
§ 1503 of Domestic Relations law. A6 (TITLE 23 DOMESTIC RELATIONS 1503. Persons Qualified to Solemnize Marriages.) states that a minister, priest or rabbi of any regularly established church or congregation can solemize marriages as a general rule. Section AB also goes on to say that every religious society, religious institution or religious organization in this Commonwealth may join persons together in marriage when at least one of the persons is a member of the society, institution or organization, according to the rules and customs of the society, institution or organization.
In addition to this, no marriage ceremonies can be performed without the parties having obtained a marriage license first.
I know during my tax training with Jackson Hewitt, I learned that Pennsylvania used to acknowledge Common Law Marriage up until 2005, but no longer allows it despite having to acknowledge previous Common Law marriages legally.
Additional law § 1504 states that the original marriage certificate shall be signed by the person solemnizing the marriage and given to the parties contracting the marriage. The duplicate certificate shall be signed by the person or by a member of the religious society, institution or organization solemnizing the marriage and returned for recording within ten days to the court which issued the license.
4. Definition of Marriage
Domestic Relations law § 1102 states that the definition of marriage is a civil contract by which one man and one woman take each other for husband and wife.
Pennsylvania currently does not recognize same-sex marriage, but does not have a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage which requires approval by both houses of the state legislature in two successive two-year sessions by means of majority vote. (Recognition of same-sex unions in PA). There have been several attempts to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, the most recent House Bill 1434 introduced by State Rep Daryl Metcalfe, was recently stopped in March 2012 from going through.
Two cities in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, do recognize a form of “life” or “domestic” partnership, which give more lee-way to rights for same-sex couples.
Domestic Relations law § 1704, which was instituted in 1996 by Act 124 to add a section for same-sex marriages, redefines marriage as between a man and woman, and states that same-sex marriages performed elsewhere legally, are not recognized within the state of Pennsylvania.
5. Charitable Funds
The Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act 10 P. S. § 162.1 et seq. was approved December 19th, 1990 and went into effect on February 21, 1991 as an act relating to charitable organizations that requires them to register so that they are regulated on the solicitation of money and property (The Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act PDF). It states:
Any person granted tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (Public Law 99-514, 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3)) or any person who is or holds himself out to be established for any charitable purpose or any person who in any manner employs a charitable appeal as the basis of any solicitation or an appeal which has a tendency to suggest there is a charitable purpose to any solicitation. An affiliate of a charitable organization which has its principal place of business outside this Commonwealth shall be a charitable organization for the purposes of this act. The term shall not be deemed to include:
(1) any bona fide duly constituted organization of law enforcement personnel, firefighters or other persons who protect the public safety whose stated purpose in the solicitation does not include any benefit to any person outside the actual active membership of the organization; and
(2) any bona fide duly constituted religious institutions and such separate groups or corporations which form an integral part of religious institutions, provided that:
(i) such religious institutions, groups or corporations are tax exempt pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
(ii) no part of their net income inures to the direct benefit of any individual; and
(iii) their conduct is primarily supported by government grants or contracts, funds solicited from their own memberships, congregations or previous donors, and fees charged for services rendered (The Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act).
It goes on to state that § 162.12:
Every charitable organization, professional fundraising counsel and professional solicitor subject to the provisions of this act shall, in accordance with the rules and regulations prescribed by the department, keep true fiscal records as to its activities in this Commonwealth as may be covered under this act, in such form as will enable them accurately to provide the information required under this act. Such records shall be made available for inspection upon demand by the department or the Office of Attorney General. However, names, addresses and identities of contributors and amounts contributed by them shall not be considered a matter of public record and, therefore, shall not generally be made available for public inspection, shall not be used for a purpose inconsistent with this act and shall be removed from the records in the custody of the department at such time that such information is no longer necessary for the enforcement of this act. Such records shall be maintained for a period of at least three years after the end of the period of registration to which they relate.
6. Prison Ministry
PA Chapter 95 Law in regards to County Correction Institutions § 95.237. Religion says that the follow are minimum requirements applicable to religion in correctional facilities (CHAPTER 95. COUNTY CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS § 95.237. Religion.):
(1) Written local policy must provide that each prisoner shall be allowed to satisfy the needs of his religious life consistent with the orderly administration of the prison.
(2) Written local policy must require that individuals seeking to provide religious guidance to inmates be screened and selected by the prison administrator or a designee.
(3) Written local policy must provide for the accommodation of religious practices consistent with the security needs and orderly administration of the prison. The policy must describe the procedure for reviewing an inmate request for accommodation of a religious practice or activity.
(4) Written local policy must provide that inmates are permitted to possess religious objects consistent with the security needs and orderly administration of the prison. The policy must describe the procedure for reviewing an inmate request to possess religious objects that would otherwise be considered contraband.
(5) Written local policy must provide for the accommodation of special foods, diets and fasts as part of an inmate’s religious practices consistent with the security needs and orderly administration of the prison. The policy must describe the procedure for reviewing an inmate request for accommodation of these practices.
If there is a body of laws between the municipality laws and the state/provincial laws where you live, list nine (9) laws, or as many as possible if less than nine, concerning clergy, that you have found by searching this area.
As stated in Laws in the Church #1, the Solicitor for Adams County I spoke with says there are no local laws that determine the practice of Clergy outside of verifying they are legal Clergy to perform marriages and for tax purposes.
List nine (9) laws, or as many as possible if less than nine, concerning clergy that you have found by searching your nearest municipality laws. By municipality, we mean on the village or town level. If there are none, then tell us how you found that out.
When emailing my local township, Straban, I was put into contact with John M. Hartzell, Esquire, who is the Solicitor for Adams County where I reside. I asked the township about clergy law on various levels, whether municipality, county, etc., and was referred to him directly. He has been the Solicitor for the last 10 years, and provides legal advice to the Board of Commissioners so he is familiar with most legal authorities that apply to County powers.
According to his information, the County does not regulate Clergy. There are some laws that relate to them in regards to occupational tax and marriage licenses, which apply to Clergy across the country but is not specified for local Clergy. In those instances, the County has to do the normal determinations on whether a person is a clergy member or an administrator for a church. They also try to determine whether the person can marry people as a valid Clergy, which falls to the Clerk of the Orphans Court, who has the power to issue marriage licenses. These are all secondary to other laws provided by the State of Pennsylvania.
He also commented that he is aware of no ordinance relating to the practice of Clergy to practice their trade. He suggested I additional research under the Department of State in Harrisburg for state-level law regarding Clergy.