Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Woman Sues Church Over Molestation by Former Pastor
Her lawsuit was barred by the statute of limitations.
Key point. Minors who are sexually molested by church workers may not sue their church after the statute of limitations has expired. Generally, the statute of limitations begins to run on a minor's 18th birthday. In some states the statute of limitations does not begin to run until an adult survivor of child sexual molestation "discovers" that he or she has experienced physical or emotional suffering as a result of the molestation. Other states do not recognize this so-called "discovery rule."

An Indiana court ruled that an adult female who was molested by her former pastor was prevented from suing her church by the statute of limitations. The victim was born to a large family in 1968. A high achiever, she was elected president of her class all four years of high school and ultimately graduated as valedictorian. The victim began seeing a minister in her church for counseling when she was sixteen. The minister was a married man about twice the victim's age. The minister soon abused the counseling relationship to manipulate the victim into having a sexual relationship with him. He claimed that having sexual intercourse with him would be "therapeutic," and assured her that it was an appropriate part of the counseling process. The sexual relationship continued until the victim was twenty years old. The minister convinced her that they had a "love" relationship. Through domination and manipulation, he persuaded her to keep the sexual relationship secret.

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Posted: May 1, 1997
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