The following categories of liability are some of the most common ones, and are
often used to evaluate the seriousness of an offense against another person(s).
These are based upon text in Pastor, Church & Law by Richard Hammar, and
Church Tax and Law Report, an bimonthly newsletter edited by R. Hammar, and
Risk Prevention & Response In The Local Church by Rev. Elder Donald
Negligence: There is negligence when behavior, conduct, or decisions have
created an "unreasonable risk of harm" to another's person or
property, and did result in injury or damage. It may or may not be intentional,
and it may result from action taken or from failure to act appropriately to
Examples may include: knowing of a danger on church property and failing to
inform those in attendance, not providing adequate adult supervision for
children and youth activities, failing to maintain policies created to reduce
risk and designed to maintain safety of the public.
Defamation: Communication of words, to another person or group that tends to
injure the reputation of another person, or organization in such a way as to
diminish their esteem, respect, goodwill, or confidence in which the defamed
person is held. Words are considered defamatory when made with legal malice,
meaning with knowledge that a statement is false or made with a reckless
disregard concerning its truth or falsity.
Example: Making statements concerning discipline of a church member or
clergyperson designed to harm the persons, gossip designed to injure as
described above, etc.
Undue Influence: Taking total dominion and control over the mind of another. If
the person exerting the influence subsequently receives a gift, the donor or
donor's representative may have the gift canceled. Included here are gifts
given by a living person or given through the will of a deceased person.
Invasion Of Privacy: There are four basic kinds of invasion of Privacy: 1)
public disclosure of private facts such as comments disclosing immoral or
illegal personal conduct of an individual; 2) use of another's name or likeness
(such as publishing a picture of someone without their consent); 3) false light
in the public eye (for example; attributing opinions, statements, or beliefs to
other persons they do not hold); and 4) intruding on another's seclusion (such
as entering another's home without consent, looking through windows, harassing
on the phone, etc.)
Clergy Malpractice: Clergy can be accused of failing to exercise an accepted
degree of skill in the performance of professional duties that results in
injury to another.
Contract Liability: Contracts should never be signed by anyone representing the
church, including the clergy or anyone in leadership, unless 1) the contract
has been properly authorized (for example there has to be a motion authorizing
it in the official minutes); 2) signatures must be authorized by the Church
Council. 3) Church representative's signature should always be followed by his
or her title. In some situations, a signature that is not followed by a title
can leave the signatory personally liable for the terms of the contract. An
attorney should review all Contracts involving more than $500.00 or requiring
performance that exceeds thirty days before they are signed.
Diversion of Church Funds: "Church funds and assets are to be held in
trust for the religious and charitable purpose of the church. None of a
church's net earnings can inure to the benefit of a private individual, except
for the payment of reasonable compensation for services rendered or as may be
authorized by the Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ Council.
Diversion of church funds can be intentional, such as embezzlement or theft, or
can be inadvertent, such as use of church funds for travel or entertainment
that is not properly authorized.
Church officers may also be legally accountable for violating the terms of
restrictions of properties and funds held in trust by the church, such as
diversion of designated funds from their intended purposes or projects."
Sexual Misconduct of Church Workers: There are basically two types of sexual
misconduct acted out by clergy and church workers: 1) sexual molestation of a
minor or other person incapable of consent as defined by the laws of the State
of New York, and 2) sexual relations with a person who has less power than the
church worker and/or person in leadership.
RAY OF HOPE CHURCH DEFINITION OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT FROM
"Sexual Contact" is the touching of an intimate part (sexual organs,
anus, buttocks, groin or breast) of another person and can include sexual
intercourse, fondling and any other kind of sexual touching, nudity, kissing,
spanking and sexual suggestions or innuendoes. "Touching" is physical
contact with another person either through the person's clothes or directly
with the person's skin. A "person in a leadership position" is one
who is a Teacher, committee Chairperson, Member of the Church Council, Officer
of the corporation, Pastor, Appointed Pastor, or Worship Leader (which may
include Facilitator, Member of the House of Communion Ministries, Choir
Director and all leaders of music) of Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus
Further: All coercive sexual activity with persons who are helpless in the
situation by virtue of age, abilities, dependency, or any other circumstance,
cannot be approved or condoned.
Sexual activity between adults and children can never be condoned by Ray Of
Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ under any circumstance. Such activity is
always inherently coercive even when it appears on the surface to be voluntary
and a product of mutual consent. The disenfranchisement and the dependency of
children in all cultures in the world underscores the reality that adults hold
both overt and covert power over children to the degree that informed consent
is not possible. (taken from Rev. Eastman)