• Key point. A church may be legally responsible for injuries caused by incidents of child molestation if it was negligent in selecting, supervising, or retaining the perpetrator.
• Key point. In some states members of an unincorporated church cannot sue their church as a result of injuries they sustain.
An Indiana court ruled that the first amendment does not prevent a woman from suing her church and a denominational agency on account of injuries she suffered as a result of being molested by her pastor when she was a minor. The woman claimed that the pastor began molesting her when she was 7 years old, and that the molestation continued until she was 20. The woman sued her church and the regional and national denominational agencies with which her church was affiliated. A state appeals court concluded that the woman could pursue some of her claims against the church and regional agency, but not against the national church. The court made a number of important observations that are summarized below.