Untangling the Web (Part 2)
A 10-step checklist for church leaders.

Many churches have their own website on the internet, and for good reason. A website is a great tool for promoting the mission and ministries of a church, and for sharing information with members. But few church leaders are aware that there are several legal and tax issues associated with the use of church websites, and unfamiliarity with these issues can result in unexpected liabilities. An article in last month's Church Finance Today addressed five issues associated with church websites:

  • Issue #1: copyright infringement
  • Issue #2: trademark infringement
  • Issue #3: the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act
  • Issue #4: invasion of privacy
  • Issue #5: pedophiles

This month we will address five more:

  • Issue #6: defamation
  • Issue #7: political campaign activities
  • Issue #8: charitable contributions
  • Issue #9: engaging in "commerce"
  • Issue #10: sales taxes

Issue #6: Defamation

Any statements on a church website that are false, and that injure the reputation of another person, are potentially defamatory. Such statements may be made by persons speaking on behalf of the church, such as an editorial by a pastor. But, they also may include statements made by persons having no association with the church that are simply repeated on the church website. For example, a church website posts an article containing defamatory statements, or contains a "discussion board" on which someone posts defamatory statements. Some courts have ruled that merely hosting a discussion board on a website can result in liability for defamatory statements posted by third parties, especially if the host had reason to know of the defamatory statements and did nothing to remove or block them.

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2019 Church & Clergy Tax Guide

2019 Church & Clergy Tax Guide

Find comprehensive help understanding United States tax laws as they relate to pastors and churches.
Charitable Contributions Bulletin Inserts

Charitable Contributions Bulletin Inserts

Help your members give more by answering their charitable giving and tax law questions.
Politics and the Church

Politics and the Church

Tax and legal guidelines faith-based organizations need to know before jumping into the political fray.
Understanding Labor Laws

Understanding Labor Laws

Regulations that pertain to hiring, firing, paying, disciplining, and supervising ministry employees.



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