Key point. A church may be liable on the basis of negligent selection for a worker's molestation of a minor if the church was negligent in the selection of the worker. Negligence means a failure to exercise reasonable care, and so negligent selection refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care in the selection of the worker. Liability based on negligent selection may be imposed upon a church for the acts of employees and volunteers.
Key point. Some courts have found churches liable on the basis of negligent retention for the sexual misconduct of ministers and other church workers on the ground that the church was negligent in retaining the offender after receiving credible information indicating that he or she posed a risk of harm to others.
A Kentucky court ruled that a church could be liable for an employee's sexual molestation of two minor girls since church leaders had sufficient evidence of inappropriate conduct by the offender to make it foreseeable that he would molest the two girls. The principal of a church-operated private high school appointed a 23-year-old church member ("Eric") as the girls' basketball team coach. Pursuant to school policy, a criminal background check was performed prior to Eric's appointment. Although Eric previously resided in Ohio, only a Kentucky background check was performed, which did not reveal his criminal history for drug and traffic offenses in Ohio. Prior to his appointment, he told members of the congregation, including the principal, about his prior drug use, and several church members confirmed that he had "testified" in church regarding his drug use.