- N. Y. Civ
- L. & R. § 450 (McKinney
As religious organizations contribute increasingly to community mental health, counseling by clergy acquires greater significance. As a result, clergy confront from time to time ethics challenges resulting from the need to balance a commitment to clients and an obligation to follow the requirements of religious doctrine. The recent New York case of Lightman v. Flaum highlights an example of this dilemma. A woman who asked two rabbis (Flaum and Weinberger) for help in her marriage complained that they had violated the confidentiality she expected of them. The rabbis requested summary judgment based on religious grounds, and the trial court rejected their request. The state's highest court concurred with an appeal court's reversal of the trial court. We discuss the arguments raised in this case about the extent to which clergy may owe a duty of confidentiality to those who consult them for psychological help, and we also consider the religion-based arguments that would fashion an exception to confidentiality in this unique context.