Key point 10-07. A church may exercise reasonable care in selecting ministers or other church workers but still be responsible for their misconduct if it “retained” them after receiving information indicating that they posed a risk of harm to others.
Key point 10-09.1. Some courts have found churches liable on the basis of negligent supervision for a worker’s acts of child molestation on the ground that the church failed to exercise reasonable care in the supervision of the victim or of its own programs and activities.
An Illinois appeals court affirmed a youth pastor’s prison sentence of 40 years for predatory sexual assault of two 12-year-old girls. A youth pastor (the “defendant”) engaged in grooming behavior with two 12-year-old girls that culminated in sexual contact.
The grooming behavior with victim 1 included numerous “love letters” and emails. Sexual contact occurred during “Bible quiz” tournaments at three churches. Eventually, the victim informed her parents of the defendant’s conduct, and the parents informed the police. Several police officers executed a search warrant on defendant’s apartment and seized a laptop computer. The defendant’s wife later gave the officers a second laptop computer. The computers were subjected to forensic analysis, and images of child pornography were found. One computer had almost 14,000 images and the other computer had over 15,000 images.
The defendant informed the police that he met one of the victims at church and their relationship “grew from there.” The defendant said that his relationship with the victim eventually became inappropriate, but that was not his intention in the beginning. He stated that he developed a “spiritual mentorship” with the victim and that he “had a deep desire pretty much his whole life to be someone’s hero, someone’s leader, helping them in all facets of life.” Defendant said that the victim “attached herself” to him and looked up to him, and he took advantage of that.