Does a church have a legal right to keep people from accessing its property or attending services? For example, let's say that a church has an encounter with a disruptive person, and asks him not to return. What if he shows up again the next week? How should ushers respond?
This issue has been addressed by a number of courts. Generally, the courts have been sympathetic to attempts by churches to deny access to disruptive individuals. To illustrate, one court ruled that a church could bar a disruptive individual from entering its premises. It noted that the person had been clearly informed and understood that his privilege to attend the church had been revoked. The court rejected the person's claim that a church is a public place that cannot deny access to anyone. To the contrary, a church, like any property owner, has the right to determine who can access its premises.
Let me mention another case in which a court ruled that a church could prevent a disruptive person from accessing its property. The person had disrupted church services, and harassed members, in the past. A court issued an order prohibiting the person from coming within 200 yards of the church. This order was upheld by a state appeals court, which found it to be a reasonable limitation on socially unacceptable behavior. Such cases demonstrate that the civil courts will assist churches in keeping disruptive individuals away by issuing appropriate orders. This obviously is a last resort, but it is one that is available in dealing with persons who will not behave appropriately.
You can learn more about how to handle people who disrupt your services or pose a potential threat to the safety of your church members in Dealing with Dangerous People.
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."
Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.