Thursday, July 05, 2007

No secrets

You might want to be aware of what the Texas Supreme Court recently ruled in case you're in the habit of making confessions to your pastor. You should read the church's charter or contitution or maybe just ask if the pastor will follow established professional rules of conduct for counseling. Otherwise your dirty laundry might be waved in front of your fellow congregants.

The case focused on the “conflicting duties” of C.L. Westbrook, who is both a licensed professional counselor and pastor of an evangelical church in Fort Worth. He disclosed Peggy Lee Penley's affair after she confided it to him in a counseling session.

While Penley based her negligence claim on the secular duty of confidentiality that a counselor owes a client, Westbrook invoked the constitution of the CrossLand Community Bible Church, which requires church elders to discipline members whose conduct “violates Biblical standards.”

The discipline included announcing this bit of news to the congregation, but the Texas Supreme Court says they can't interfere in church business. The moral of the story, if you're going to turn to your church for counseling, make sure your pastor will abide by professional standards you can live with and/or don't assume confidentiality as you would with a real, licensed counselor because their license means nothing.

So, I'm just wondering, has everyone completely lost their minds?

Maybe the licensing or certification process for any professional job should include the question, do you have personal beliefs that will prevent you from adhering to the reasonable and expected standards of your profession?

I think I'll file this under the "if you can't do your job, find a new career" rubric.

People who speak to licensed counselors have a reasonable expectation of privacy. That's our societal standard. If the Texas Supreme Court says counselors who work through churches do not have to abide by established and expected standards, than the licensing or certification process is simply meaningless. Why bother?


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