Jump directly to the content

Recent DevelopmentsRecent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Recent Developments in Florida Regarding Sexual Misconduct by Clergy and Church Workers
A Florida court ruled that it was barred by the first amendment from resolving a woman's lawsuit claiming that she had been the victim of a priest's sexual misconduct.
Florida
State:
Key point. Several courts have concluded that churches cannot be legally responsible for a minister's sexual misconduct, since allowing them to be sued for failing to exercise sufficient care in the selection, training, or supervision of clergy would violate the first amendment guaranty of religious freedom.
Key point. Several courts have concluded that churches cannot be legally responsible on the basis of a breach of a fiduciary duty for a minister's sexual misconduct, since recognizing such a theory of liability would require a civil court to consider church doctrine and polity.

A Florida court ruled that it was barred by the first amendment from resolving a woman's lawsuit claiming that she had been the victim of a priest's sexual misconduct. A woman sought out a priest for marital counseling, and alleged that the priest engaged in sexual contacts with her. The woman sued her church and diocese, claiming that they were aware of prior incidents involving sexual misconduct during counseling by the same priest. Despite this knowledge, nothing was done to address the problem. She claimed that the priest breached a fiduciary duty by becoming romantically involved with her; that the church and diocese had a fiduciary relationship with her (because she reported the priest's misconduct to them) that was breached; and, that the church and diocese engaged in negligent hiring, supervision, and retention of the priest. The church and diocese asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit against them on the ground that a resolution of the woman's claims would result in an "excessive entanglement" of the court with religious beliefs in violation of the first amendment. The court agreed with the church and diocese, and dismissed the lawsuit against them. The woman appealed. The appeals court's resolution of the woman's claims is addressed below.

Article Preview

This article is currently available to ChurchLawAndTax.com subscribers only. To continue reading:

View All
from our store
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

Did you know pastors and other church staff may be required by law to report child abuse and that laws on this vary state by state?
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.
Church Issues: Same-Sex Marriage and Gender Identity

Church Issues: Same-Sex Marriage and Gender Identity

Richard Hammar combines research and analysis to take you through a step-by-step process regarding public accommodations laws.

ChurchSalary

ChurchSalary

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