Nevada Supreme Court considers church liability in abuse suits

A national debate over the extent to which a religious group can be held liable for sexual misconduct by its clergy or its volunteers has made its way to the doorstep of the Nevada Supreme Court.

Because lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clerics have typically been settled before trials could take place, the state’s courts have not delved very far into the issue of religious groups’ liability for sexual abuse. That’s about to change as the high court considers a case involving a Las Vegas woman who claims she was sexually assaulted nine years ago by a man she described as a cantor at a synagogue.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Roman Catholic bishops of Las Vegas and Reno have lined up with the synagogue to argue that the First Amendment shields religions from lawsuits of this type.

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