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Risks of Pastoral Counseling Services

Church leaders should never ignore "warning signs" that a staff member (employee or volunteer) has a propensity to engage in a particular kind of harmful conduct.

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.

* A New York court ruled that a husband whose wife was seduced by a pastor while serving as a marriage counselor could sue the pastor and church for breach of a fiduciary duty, and the church for negligent supervision and negligent retention. A pastor provided marital counseling to a couple in his church. In addition to serving as a marriage counselor, the pastor presided over various church-sponsored functions, including weekend "marriage retreats," which the couple attended. On one occasion ...

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Posted:
  • March 1, 2007

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