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

Negligent Selection of Church Workers—In General

§ 10.03

One of the most significant legal risks facing churches is negligent selection. The term negligence means carelessness or a failure to exercise reasonable care. Negligent selection, then, means carelessness or a failure to exercise reasonable care in the selection of a worker. Consider the following examples:

Examples
  • A church employs a pastor without any investigation into his background. The pastor seduces a counselee during marriage counseling. The victim sues the church, claiming that it is responsible for her injuries on the basis of negligent selection. It is later learned that the pastor committed adultery with a member of his prior congregation. No one in his present church asked for any information or references from the former congregation.
  • A church board hires a youth pastor despite its knowledge that the youth pastor engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with an adolescent member of his youth group in a prior church. The board wants to give the youth pastor a "second chance." Six months after being hired, a parent alleges that her adolescent daughter was molested by the youth pastor. The church is later sued by the victim and her mother, who allege that the church is responsible for the youth pastor's misconduct on the basis of negligent selection.

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