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Churches' Liability After Out-of Court Settlements

If a pastor is released from liability for sexual misconduct, his denomination cannot be liable.

Key point. A church or denominational agency cannot be liable for a pastor's sexual misconduct if the victim enters into a settlement releasing the pastor from liability.
Key point. A denomination's bylaws do not impose a fiduciary duty upon the denomination to protect church members from sexual misconduct.

! The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that a denominational agency could not be liable for a pastor's sexual misconduct since the victim had entered into an agreement releasing the pastor from liability. A police officer was killed in the line of duty. His widow sought out her pastor for counseling. Within a few months, the pastor initiated a sexual relationship with the widow. The affair lasted for nearly a year, at which time the pastor was assigned to a position in another state. The couple continued their relationship for seven years, meeting four or five times each year ...

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  • November 3, 1997