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Discipline of Church Members

Churches' membership decisions are protected by the First Amendment.


• The Oklahoma Supreme Court has rendered its second ruling on the discipline of church members in three years. A church convened a disciplinary hearing to determine the membership status of two sisters accused of fornication. Neither sister attended, and neither sister withdrew her membership in the church. Following the hearing, both sisters received letters from the church informing them that their membership had been terminated. The sisters sued the church and its leaders, claiming that the church's actions in delivering the termination letters and disclosing their contents "to the public" constituted defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy (public disclosure of private facts). A trial court dismissed the lawsuit, and the sisters appealed directly to the state supreme court which upheld the dismissal of the case. The court began its opinion ...

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  • November 2, 1992

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