Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Abuse Victim Sues Church for Negligence
Adult victims may be able to sue for abuse suffered as a child
Indiana
State:
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.

first amendment

The church, along with the regional and national denominational agencies, insisted that the woman's claim was barred by the first amendment nonestablishment of religion clause which prohibits "excessive entanglement" between church and state. The court acknowledged that some courts have reached such a conclusion, but it declined to do so noting that a review of the woman's claims "does not require any inquiry into religious doctrine or practice." It continued:

Log In For Full Access

Interested in becoming a member? Learn more.

View All
from our store
Pastor, Church & Law, Fifth Edition

Pastor, Church & Law, Fifth Edition

Learn which local, state, and federal laws apply to religious organizations.
Managing the Legal Risks of Lay Counseling

Managing the Legal Risks of Lay Counseling

Develop specific policies and procedures that protect your church, lay caregivers, and those who receive care.
Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Laws

Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Laws

State by state laws to report child abuse.
Church Issues: Waivers and Release Forms and Church Liability

Church Issues: Waivers and Release Forms and Church Liability

What these documents do—and don't do—based on statutes and court decisions made nationwide.

ChurchSalary

ChurchSalary

Experience a whole new way to set compensation. Eliminate the guesswork – get access to detailed compensation reports in just minutes.