Law Offices of
Treitler & Montisano
A Partnership of Professional Corporations
3737 Camino del Rio South, Suite 109
San Diego, California 92108
William B. Treitler Telephone (619) 283-1111
Anthony J. Montisano, Jr. Telecopier (619) 528-074
April 25, 1991
Mr. Ron Halvorson
RPI Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 44
Curtis, WA 98538
Dear Mr. Halvorson:
Per your request I am including a summary of my findings on the issue of potential liability for churches who are prospective participants in the Living Free program
The key factor in preventing liability of the participating church in the program itself, and the individuals who are administrating the program, is to never hold the program out to be anything but a ministry, gathering group, or related function with the intent and purpose of providing spiritual guidance and spiritual support to the participants.
Do not use phraseology from psychiatrists and psychotherapists but instead use religious phraseology. For example, rather than using terms such as treatment, group therapy, consultations, counseling appointments and clients, use terms such as ministry, Bible study group, prayer group, spiritual guidance and students.
It is also important that the participating students are not counseled to do a particular act or refrain from doing a particular act (e.g.: "Leave your drunken husband if he comes home again in that conditions.") However, it would be appropriate to assist them in coping with a drunken husband by strengthening them spiritually.
As long as the program does not promote itself as a professional counseling program, and the people who instruct and meet with the students do not hold themselves out to be professional therapists of any kind, then the church, the program and instructors will not be held to a higher standard of care which the law assigns to professional therapists.
However, you must inform that although they will not be held to a professional standard of care ( assuming they comply with the above advice), they must act reasonably and avoid outrageous and egregious conduct.
If you have any questions regarding the above, or any other specific items or factual scenarios, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very truly yours,
William B. Treitler