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Pastor, Church & Law

written by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Court Decisions Rejecting Negligent Supervision Claims

Volume 4 . Chapter 10 . § 10-10.2
Key point 10-10.2. Many courts have ruled that the First Amendment prevents churches from being legally responsible on the basis of negligent supervision for the sexual misconduct of ministers.

This section reviews court decisions in which a church or other religious organization was found not liable on the basis of negligent supervision for a minister's sexual contact with an adult. Many courts have concluded that the First Amendment's "nonestablishment of religion" and "free exercise of religion" clauses prevent the civil courts from resolving negligent supervision claims involving clergy misconduct. To illustrate, the United States Supreme Court observed in a landmark case more than a century ago: "It would therefore also be inappropriate ...

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