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Defamation Claims Against Church Members

Court rules that it may resolve lawsuit.

Georgia
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Key point. Statements made in the course of church disciplinary proceedings may be protected by a "qualified privilege," meaning that they cannot be defamatory unless made with malice. In this context, malice means either actual knowledge that the statements are false or a reckless disregard as their truth or falsity.
Key point. Some courts are willing to resolve defamation claims brought by church members against other members, if they can do so without inquiring into religious doctrine or practice.
• A Georgia court ruled that it had the authority to resolve a lawsuit brought by church members claiming that they had been defamed by other church members, since it could do so without inquiring into religious doctrine. A church and several of its members were sued by other members who claimed that they had been defamed by several statements made about them. The lawsuit alleged ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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  • May 1, 1997

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