From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
PASTOR WINS APPEAL OF CONFIDENTIALITY CASE,
05 May 1996 08:37:58
95040 PASTOR WINS APPEAL OF CONFIDENTIALITY CASE,
LOSES DAMAGES AWARD
by Jerry L. Van Marter
AUSTIN, Texas--A Texas appeals court has upheld a lower court's
judgment that the Texas Department of Human Services violated the
Rev. Ned Benson's right to confidentiality when he reported
suspected child abuse by members of his Austin congregation several
"Benson was poorly treated by Department of Human Services
employees, who negligently promised confidentiality and then
ignored these promises in disclosing his identity to suspects under
investigation," said the state Third District Court of Appeals
However, in the same decision, the court reversed monetary
damages the lower court had awarded Benson. It based that reversal
on a technicality in Texas tort claims law. The court did uphold
the payment of Benson's attorney's fees by the state.
The revelation of Benson's identity in the child abuse case
so disrupted the congregation he was serving that he resigned and
was subsequently unemployed for a couple of years. Benson was
recently called as pastor to St. John's Presbyterian Church in
"My bullheaded persistence in this (clergy confidentiality)
thing has never been about money," Benson said. "It's been about
the safety and security of children, about protecting them from
abuse by encouraging ordinary folks and professionals who suspect
abuse to report it."
Numerous professional and religious organizations, including
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), filed amicus curiae briefs in
support of Benson. The court agreed, stating, "Denying
confidentiality to professionals discourages the reporting of abuse
by those most likely to observe the mistreatment of children:
teachers, counselors, physicians and clergy."
# # #
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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