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Letter Calling for Pastor's Resignation Not Defamatory, Court Rules

Letter meets with "qualified privilege" requirements.

Last Reviewed: March 26, 2021
Key point: Statements made to other church members concerning a matter of common interest are protected by a "qualified privilege," meaning that they cannot be defamatory unless made with malice.

An Ohio court ruled that church board members who wrote a letter asking their pastor to resign on account of his failing health were not guilty of defamation.

A pastor sued all 12 members of the board of deacons of his former church as a result of a letter the board had sent to him. The letter was written following a series of meetings and expressed the deacons' belief that the pastor's health problems prevented him from performing his duties effectively. The letter stated, in pertinent part:

[I]t is the opinion of the Deacon Board that [your resignation] is necessary to protect the health and vitality of [the church]. We are thoroughly convinced that your general health and physical ...

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Posted:
  • November 1, 1995
  • Last Reviewed: March 26, 2021

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