Clergy, Counseling, and Criminal Liability
Pastoral counseling allows clergy to help others in a one-on-one setting. It brings tremendous potential for healing, but also a huge risk of emotional entanglement. Pastors who have entered inappropriate relationships with counselees have jeopardized their families, ministries, and careers.
And, they could go to jail. Several states have enacted laws that make sexual misconduct by clergy in a counseling relationship a crime punishable by imprisonment. Some pastors have faced prosecution based on these laws.
In this one-hour webinar sponsored by Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company and Christianity Today, church legal expert Richard R. Hammar highlights the risks of criminal liability for counseling misconduct. Hammar, senior editor of the Church Law & Tax Report newsletter, reviewed statutes from all 50 states to determine when clergy could face charges for carrying on illicit relationships with people they counsel. The results of this review were surprising, making it critically important for clergy, church leaders, and lay leaders to understand the laws, the potential risks, and the preventive steps they should take to make certain such relationships never develop.