Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Recent Developments in Pennsylvania Regarding Sexual Misconduct by Church Volunteers
A Pennsylvania court ruled that (1) a charity cannot be sued when one of its volunteers molests a child who has no connection with the charity, even if it knew that the volunteer had a prior conviction for child molestation; and (2) the charity cannot be sued on the ground that it failed to report the volunteer's acts of child molestation.
Pennsylvania
Key point. A church is not liable for acts of child molestation by one of its youth workers off of church premises and unrelated to any church program or activity, even if it is aware of previous incidents of molestation involving the youth worker.
Key point. A church is not liable for acts of child molestation by a youth worker on the basis of a failure by church leaders to comply with a state child abuse reporting law following a previous incident of molestation involving the same worker.

A Pennsylvania court ruled that (1) a charity cannot be sued when one of its volunteers molests a child who has no connection with the charity, even if it knew that the volunteer had a prior conviction for child molestation; and (2) the charity cannot be sued on the ground that it failed to report the volunteer's acts of child molestation. A minister and his wife discovered in 1993 that their minor son had been repeatedly molested over a three—year period by an adult who served as a volunteer with the Big Brothers organization. The victim was not involved with the Big Brothers organization, and his relationship with the molester had no connection with Big Brothers. The victim's parents later learned that the molester had been accused of molesting one of his "Little Brothers" a few years earlier. Upon learning of the previous incident, Big Brothers suspended the molester as a volunteer but did not report the allegations to the state agency that investigates child abuse. Big Brothers later determined that the allegations against the molester were not proven, and it reinstated the molester as a volunteer. A year later the molester was honored as "Big Brother of the Year." The victim's parents sued Big Brothers, claiming that it was responsible for their son's injuries on two separate grounds: (1) it was negligent in failing to report the prior allegation of child abuse; and (2) it violated a state law requiring the reporting of suspected incidents of child abuse. A state appeals court rejected both theories of liability:

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