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Pastor, Church & Law

written by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Theories of Liability

Volume 1 . Chapter 4 . § 4-11.1
Key point 4-11.1. Clergy who engage in sexual contact with an adult or minor are subject to civil liability on the basis of several legal theories. They also are subject to criminal liability.

1. Malpractice

Some courts have found clergy liable on the basis of malpractice for sexual misconduct with an adult or minor. These cases are addressed in section 4-05 of this chapter.

2. Fiduciary Duty

A few courts have concluded that clergy, in some situations, owe a "fiduciary duty" toward members of their congregation, and that they can be liable for breaching this duty when they engage in sexual misconduct with a member of their congregation. For example, a few courts have concluded a fiduciary duty arises when clergy "hold themselves out" to their church ...

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