What is Clergy Malpractice in California?

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clergy malpractice california

In recent years, the clergy and the churches they represent have faced an ever-increasing onslaught of lawsuits brought against them. The legal system of California has seen its fair share of clergy malpractice lawsuits. While the majority of these malpractice suits involve allegations of sexual impropriety with minors, clergy malpractice can occur whenever a member of the clergy violates a duty he or she has to one of the members of their church. For more information, please continue reading, then contact an experienced California church litigation lawyer.

Can a member of the clergy face liability for malpractice in California?

In light of the fact that clergy members serve the role of spiritual advisors, they face many of the same malpractice claims as those waged against mental health professionals. But unlike mental health professionals, the clergy generally do not possess licenses, which makes it difficult for plaintiffs to hold them to any real legal standard. Indeed, California courts often do not recognize clergy malpractice as professional malpractice. Because they do not want to violate the Constitution’s laws regarding religion, judges have expressed great reluctance in creating standards of care for clergy the same way it has created standards for other professions.

However, since the 1980s, the courts have become more open to hearing clergy malpractice cases.

What constitutes clergy malpractice in California?

Even so, some of the most typical claims in a clergy malpractice suit include:

  • Sexual impropriety
  • Improper personal advice
  • Breach of confidentiality or privacy
  • Wrongful death
  • Defamation or slander

How do you protect your church’s integrity in CA?

No matter what precautions you take, some individuals are inherently litigious and will pursue damages from your church even if you’ve done nothing wrong. For this reason, you might bolster your church’s integrity by:

  • Developing a clear and coherent discipline policy stating under what conditions discipline may take place and by whom
  • Ensuring consistent enforcement of church policy
  • Requesting all members sign a covenant by which they agree to abide by the disciplinary measures
  • Submitting any conflicts between parishioners and the church or its representatives to mediation and arbitration, as outlined in church policy

Whether you need help drafting church policy or defending against church litigation, you should speak with a skilled Los Angeles, California labor lawyer.


If you are involved in an employment-, commercial- or church-related dispute, contact Lee Law Offices today.