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Legal Developments

Richard Hammar’s Review of Cases Affecting Ministers and Churches

This section contains a summary of court decisions, administrative rulings, and legislative developments that directly affect churches and clergy. Court decisions reflect decisions of all state appellate courts and supreme courts, and all federal courts.

State trial court decisions are not reviewed since they are unpublished and have no value as legal precedent. All of these developments are important, but some are of vital significance. Therefore, each development should be reviewed carefully.

Note that there are many “key points” associated with Legal Developments. These are intended to help you more quickly comprehend the importance of each development. To help you go deeper on a specific topic or issue, the numbered key points in Legal Developments align with the numbered key points in Pastor, Church & Law, Fifth Edition (ChurchLawAndTaxStore.com) and the Legal Library available on ChurchLawAndTax.com.

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Newest DevelopmentsView All

Defamation

A Church’s Insurer Was Not Obligated to Provide a Legal Defense for Congregant Facing a Lawsuit Member access only

Defamatory remarks made by a lay member on social media were not authorized by the church and therefore not covered by its insurance policy.
May 2022
Denominations - Legal Liability

A Denominational Office Was Not Liable Because a Pastor Infected His Former Wife with HIV Member access only

A Mississippi case demonstrates how ministers are not necessarily agents of their churches or denominational offices.
May 2022
Invasion of Privacy; Judicial Resolution of Church Disputes

Pastor Who Revealed Child’s Suicide During a Funeral Sermon Can’t Be Sued Member access only

Court: Ecclesiastical abstention doctrine bars lawsuit from the mother of deceased son.
May 2022
Clergy - Discipline and Removal; Ministerial Exception

Court Barred by “Ministerial Exception” from Deciding a Gay Pastor’s Discrimination Lawsuit Member access only

But the case illustrates the potential for a church being liable for sexual harassment or creating a hostile workplace.
May 2022
Sexual Misconduct by Clergy, Lay Employees, and Volunteers

Volunteer Youth Leader Sentenced to Five Years for Molesting Teen Girl Member access only

Case illustrates high-risk behaviors that should alert churches to the potential for sexual abuse.
April 2022