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Sexual Misconduct by Clergy and Church Workers

A Michigan court refused to recognize "breach of a fiduciary duty" as a basis for liability by clergy who engage in a sexual relationship with a counselee.

Key point 10-13.2. Several courts have refused to hold churches and denominational agencies liable on the basis of a breach of a fiduciary duty for the sexual misconduct of a minister. In some cases, this result is based on first amendment considerations.

A Michigan court refused to recognize "breach of a fiduciary duty" as a basis for liability by clergy who engage in a sexual relationship with a counselee. A male pastor visited a female church member (the "plaintiff") in her home prior to an upcoming surgery. In the months and years that followed, the pastor assumed the role of a pastoral counselor and attempted to help the woman with several personal difficulties she faced. At some point in the counseling relationship the pastor and plaintiff engaged in a sexual relationship, which was not in any way related to or condoned under church doctrine. Plaintiff claimed that the counseling ...

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Posted:
  • January 3, 2000

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