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Defamation

A Massachusetts court ruled that a pastor could sue his denomination for publishing a statement informing other pastors and the media that he had been suspended from all pastoral duties because of "formal charges of sexual misconduct."

Key point 4-02.1. Ministers may be liable for making defamatory statements if a civil court can resolve the dispute without any inquiry into church doctrine or polity.

Key point 4-02.3. A number of defenses are available to one accused of defamation. These include truth, statements made in the course of judicial proceedings, consent, and self-defense. In addition, statements made to church members about a matter of common interest to members are protected by a "qualified privilege," meaning that they cannot be defamatory unless they are made with malice. In this context, malice means that the person making the statements knew that they were false or made them with a reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity. This privilege will not apply if the statements are made to nonmembers.

Defamation

* A Massachusetts court ruled that a pastor could sue his denomination for publishing a statement ...

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