Can Social Media Get a Church Sued?

Recent incidents involving alleged misuses of social media in both the public and private sectors have government officials and business executives scrambling to implement social media policies for employees.

Church leaders should take the opportunity to do the same before a situation arises, casting negative light on their congregations, or worse, landing them in court.

Indiana's deputy attorney general was fired after making controversial remarks through his personal Twitter account and blog, according to a USA Today article (The Nonprofit Quarterly also blogged about it last week). Jeff Cox "tweeted 'use live ammunition' in response to a Mother Jones tweet that riot police had been ordered to remove union supporters from the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison," the USA Today article explains.

The article continues:

"Corbin, the attorney general's spokesman, said the agency has no formal rules on social media but is developing them. He said the employee handbook, however, is clear that employees should conduct themselves in a professional manner during and after working hours."

A few days later, Inc. magazine's website published "How to Avoid a Social Media Lawsuit," which includes links to resources and books that can help organizations craft effective social media-use policies. Some of the more notable liabilities, according to Inc., include:

* Copyright/Trademark

* FTC Advertising and Full Disclosure

* Privacy

* Illegal Development

What's the takeaway for church leaders?

"If your staff is going to talk about anything work-related on any webpage, that posting may create problems for your church, and, in some cases, a liability for your church," writes Frank Sommerville in "Can Social Networking Get Us Sued?" "The best way to avoid liability for staff members' postings to social media is to require them to agree that all postings will comply with the church's terms and conditions for social networking by its staff members."

Sommerville's article is included in "Using Social Media Safely," a downloadable training resource on ChurchSafety.com that includes help with forming a use policy for church staff.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations

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REV. OLU JEGEDE

March 11, 2011  1:41pm

VERY IMPORTANT INFO

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