Regulating pastoral counseling practice: the problem of sexual misconduct.

J. L. Young and E. E. Griffith,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 23(3): 421-32, 1995.
Growing concern about sexual abuse covers many kinds of perpetrators. Therapist and clergy abusers have been increasingly targeted, yet clergy counselors who sexually abuse their clients have so far largely escaped effective sanctions from the courts. This article identifies the justifications given by these courts, identifying and evaluating their supporting arguments. This analysis suggests that the courts have decided not to enter this public policy fray, or to do so with considerable caution because of their fundamental respect for the freedom of religion. It is a choice especially problematic in regard to pastoral counselors practicing outside the discipline of either a central church authority or a professional counseling organization. The authors suggest potential legal bases for reaching sexually abusive clergy counselors without encroaching on religious freedom. They urge the churches to meet their responsibility and assume a more active stance toward helping to resolve this problem. The question of whether society does in fact value religious freedom above protection of clients sexually abused by clergy counselors remains an important policy issue. [References: 32]