Pastor, Church & Law

Liabilities, Limitations, and Restrictions

Chapter 4

While ministers continue to enjoy a few legal privileges because of their status, they are treated no differently than other citizens for purposes of most laws and regulations. As a result, they can be sued, and they are subject to government regulations. The more common forms of legal liability, and several important regulatory requirements, are addressed in this chapter. These include negligence, defamation, undue influence, malpractice, contracts, securities, failure to report child abuse, diversion of church funds, counseling, and sexual misconduct. As you read the text you will realize that the widespread belief that ministers enjoy a privileged legal status is largely a misconception. The importance of this chapter should be apparent. Ministers are being sued today in increasing numbers for a wide variety of reasons. A thorough understanding of this chapter will help you, or your minister, to avoid many of the kinds of behavior that may result in legal liability.

Ministers may be sued for a variety of reasons. Some of the theories of liability are new and in the process of formation. Others are well-established. In this chapter the more common theories of legal liability will be reviewed.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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