Part 2: Questions and Questionnaires

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Hello Brent,

Thanks a lot for the new set of questions! Just so you know, I try not to furrow my brow. That just creates more wrinkles. An eye roll or two, however, just gently flexes the muscles.

I know how your wife feels. I too would close my eyes when passing my teenage boys’ rooms. And you may think this comes strangely from me, but if you have to find your entertainment by digging through papers on your desk, you need a life. Free psych diagnosis from a lawyer! Perhaps this blog exists because neither of us has a life...

Categories of Questions Reviewed

So you want me to comment briefly on your categories of questions:

Sexual struggles—that better be justified by the organization’s theological statements and codes of conduct, and will be most defensible for ministerial employees.

Health and mental health history—this could be problematic under either the ADA or GINA. We’ve written and taught a lot on how and when you could tee up these kinds of questions.

Family history—questions that might implicate genetic information should be avoided because of GINA, and there is no known ministerial exception here.

A Definite Yellow Flag for Overly Intrusive Questions

Questions about abuse or trauma. Wow. My first reaction is that this seems pretty intrusive. So we’ll have to figure out why we are asking. Under the ministerial exception, questions like this could perhaps legitimately explore fitness for ministry. If the questions are designed to see if the person is, say, at risk for abusing children, correlations are not likely strong enough to justify that. Some abusers may have been abused, but those who have been abused don’t typically become abusers, if that makes sense. If the questions are designed to ferret out mental health issues that might keep the person off the field, they could implicate the ADA and should be handled cautiously. Questions like this can also implicate privacy concerns, and you’d want to be extremely careful about how information is handled. Yet questions like this can give useful information about whether a person has healed and stabilized. So, yellow flag on this one for sure.

So, that’s a short “sum”—gotta “run.”


Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion

Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations