New Jersey’s high court on Wednesday adopted a new, broader definition of the cleric-penitent privilege and used it to exclude from evidence a criminal defendant’s inculpatory statements to an acquaintance who was also a minister.

The Supreme Court ruled that the privilege applies if, given all the circumstances, an “objectively reasonable” person would believe that a communication was made in confidence to a cleric and in the cleric’s professional character or role as a spiritual adviser.

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