The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s priest-penitent privilege law exempts The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from revealing information from a confidential spiritual confession.

The decision upheld a Dec. 15 ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals, which also had ruled in favor of the church in a lawsuit filed by three children of Paul Adams, a former church member who died by suicide in 2017 while in jail after he was arrested for child pornography for filming and distributing his sexual abuse of the girls.

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“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints agrees with the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision,” the church said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by the abuse these children suffered from their father. The church has no tolerance for abuse.”

The children sued last year, naming the church, two bishops and other church members and alleging they had been negligent not to report Adams after he made a private spiritual confession to his bishop in 2010 and was excommunicated in 2013.

Arizona law requires clergy to report child sexual abuse, but the law contains an exemption for clergy who learn of abuse through confessions.

The church said it was following Arizona law’s clergy-penitent privilege, which shields spiritual confessions from government, police investigations and courts to preserve what some faiths call the “confessional seal.”

“Let me be perfectly clear,” Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said last year during the church’s semiannual worldwide general conference gathering. “Any kind of abuse of women, children, or anyone is an abomination to the Lord. ... Those who perpetrate these hideous acts are not only accountable to the laws of man but will also face the wrath of Almighty God.”

In the Arizona case, the local Latter-day Saint bishop who heard the confession from Adams asked him to report the abuse to police, but Adams refused. Adams also declined to give the bishop permission to make the report himself based on Adams confidential confession, according to the church.

The bishop asked Adams’ wife, Leizza, to report. She refused and later served a prison sentence for failure to report sexual abuse.

Both before and after his confession, Adams rarely attended church or spoke to his local church leaders. He continued the abuse and began to abuse her sister as an infant, but he did not confess that to his bishop.

The church did not learn until after Adams’ arrest in 2017 that Adams had continued to abuse his oldest daughter and begun to abuse an infant daughter born after his excommunication, the church said.

Last year, the church said in a statement, “What happened to the Adams children in Arizona at the hands of their parents is sickening, heartbreaking and inexcusable.”

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A county judge had ruled in August that Adams waived his privilege to keep his confession confidential when he shared videos of him abusing his daughter in private online forums.

The Arizona Court of Appeals overturned the county judge’s decision in December. The children appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court made its ruling on April 7 but did not publicly release it, according to the Associated Press. The Supreme Court affirmed the appeals court’s finding that church disciplinary records regarding Adams are confidential under Arizona law and that attorneys cannot compel church leaders to answer questions about Adams’ 2010 confession or 2013 excommunication.