Pastor, Church & Law
Defenses to Liability
Key point 4-11.02. Clergy who are sued for sexual misconduct may be able to assert one or more defenses.
The courts have reached different conclusions regarding the legal effect of a person's "consent" to a sexual relationship with a minister. Some courts have concluded that sexual relations between two consenting adults cannot be the basis for liability. Other courts have reached the opposite conclusion, usually on the ground that the pastor's unique authority and status precludes voluntary consent.
Some state laws that impose criminal liability on clergy who engage in sexual contact with counselees specify that consent is not a defense to liability.194
Several courts have referred to section 892A of the Restatement of Torts (a respected ...
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