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Church liable for sending sexually abusive pastor to new church

On behalf of Soloff & Zervanos, P.C. Posted in Sexual Abuse on Monday, August 25, 2014.

We have previously written about a behavior known as “passing the trash.” This is when sexual abusers who work in schools and similar organizations are allowed to resign quietly rather than being fired and reported to police. Their previous employer may even agree to write a letter of recommendation.

The problems with passing the trash are obvious. If a person sexually abuses children and is not punished or even called out publicly, there’s nothing to stop him from continuing to abuse children at his next job. Sadly, passing the trash happens in schools, youth organizations and even churches.

When child sex abusers are finally caught and properly punished, their history of misconduct usually gets traced back through previous jobs. And thankfully, courts are increasingly holding former employers liable for passing the trash instead of throwing it out.

A good example is a case from Ohio. In 2008, a 15-year-old girl named Jessica was raped by the pastor of her church during a private counseling session. The pastor was later convicted and is serving eight years in prison. Jessica also settled a lawsuit with the church for $90,000.

But prior to his job at the church where he raped Jessica, the pastor had served as a youth pastor at a church in a different city. During his time there, he allegedly had inappropriate sexual contact with two females, both minors. Church officials allegedly knew about these incidents but did not report the pastor. Moreover, church officials supported his move to a new church, according to news sources.

Earlier this month, an appellate court ruled in favor of Jessica, saying that “a reasonable jury could have found that [the first church] should have reasonably foreseen the 2008 incident.” The case will now go before a jury, which will decide if punitive damages are appropriate.

There is no such thing as a neutral stance when it comes to protecting children from sexual abuse. Those who do not stop sexual abusers when they have the power to do so may be sealing the fate of future victims.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Abusive Priest’s Past Employer on the Hook,” Jeff D. Gorman, Aug. 18, 2014