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Defamation of Pastors

A Louisiana court issues an important decision-Steed v. St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 1999 WL 92626 (La. App. 1999)

A Louisiana court issues an important decision-Steed v. St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 1999 WL 92626 (La. App. 1999) [Defamation, The Civil Rights Act of 1964]

Article summary. While the law allows pastors to sue parishioners or employees for defamation, it makes it difficult for them to do so. As "public figures," they must be prepared to tolerate criticism and even false allegations. Only when those allegations are made maliciously can they sue for defamation. A Louisiana court ruled that a pastor could sue a former employee for defaming him by spreading false allegations of sexual misconduct. It concluded that she had acted with malice, and ordered her to pay him $90,000 in damages. The court also rejected the woman's sexual harassment claims under state and federal law.

Imagine the pastor of your church being accused of sexual harassment of an employee. The pastor insists that he ...

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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, 1999

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