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Issues that affect ministers and churches
Church Found Not Liable in Case of Pastoral Affair
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.

A Mississippi appeals court ruled that a church was not liable, on the basis of negligence or vicarious liability, for a pastor's sexual relationship with the wife of a counselee and church member. A married couple were members of a church. In February 2011, the pastor began an extramarital affair with the wife that lasted for nearly a year. The husband (the "plaintiff") eventually learned of the affair and informed the church of it. Church staff met with the pastor that same day, and he voluntarily resigned his position as senior pastor.

On November 9, 2012, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the church claiming that it was responsible for the pastor's wrongful acts on the basis of (1) negligent hiring, retention, and supervision, and (2) vicarious liability. On December 9, 2013, the church filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the lawsuit should be dismissed as a matter of law.

After a hearing, the trial court entered an order on June 24, 2014, granting the church's motion for summary judgment. In its order, the trial court explained:

There has been no summary judgment evidence presented that the church knew or should have known that the pastor was unfit to serve as Senior Pastor or that he was prone to the activities complained of by [the husband]. Further, no evidence has been presented that the church knew or should have known of these actions by [the pastor] … . [The facts presented] cannot support any of the plaintiff's claims of liability against the church.

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