Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Sexual Misconduct by Clergy and Church Workers - Part 1
A Texas court summarily dismissed a lawsuit alleging that a church was responsible on the basis of negligence and breach of a fiduciary duty for its pastor's sexual relationship with a counselee.
Key point 10-05.2. Some courts have found churches not liable on the basis of negligent selection for the sexual misconduct of a minister or other church worker involving another adult since the church exercised reasonable care in the selection of the worker.
Key point 10-10.2. Many courts have ruled that the first amendment prevents churches from being legally responsible on the basis of negligent supervision for the sexual misconduct of ministers.
Key point 10-12. Churches face a number of legal risks when they offer counseling services by ministers or laypersons. These include negligent selection, retention, or supervision of a counselor who engages in sexual misconduct or negligent counseling. A church also may be vicariously liable for a counselor's failure to report child abuse, breach of confidentiality, and breach of a fiduciary relationship.
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.
Negligence as a Basis for Liability Seduction of Counselees and Church Members

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Posted: July 2, 2001
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