Appeals court: Woman can testify about what she claims she told Baton Rouge-area priest in confession about being sexually abused

The Advocate


A young woman who claims she was just 14 when she told a Baton Rouge-area Catholic priest that a longtime church parishioner was sexually abusing her, but that the priest did nothing to stop or report the alleged abuse, can tell a jury what she allegedly told the priest in a confession, a divided state appeals court ruled.

But the dissenting member of the three-judge 1st Circuit Court of Appeal panel warned that allowing Rebecca Mayeux to mention the confessions will “place an undue burden” on the Rev. Jeff Bayhi’s “right to the free exercise of his religion and violates the constitutional command of separation of church and state.”

The appellate court, in its Friday decision, backed state District Judge Mike Caldwell, who also stated in his February ruling that Mayeux’s attorneys won’t be allowed to argue to an East Baton Rouge Parish jury that Bayhi was mandated to report her allegations to the authorities.

Caldwell declared unconstitutional a provision of the Louisiana Children’s Code that requires clergy to report allegations of wrongdoing, even if learned in the privacy of the confessional.

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