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Membership and Reviewing Church Records

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that church members who lost their membership lost their right as members to inspect church records.

Key point 6-03.1. Church members generally have no right to inspect church records unless such a right is conferred by state nonprofit corporation law, a church's charter or bylaws, state securities law (if the church has issued securities), or a subpoena. Church records enjoy no privilege against disclosure, with the exception of documents that are protected by the clergy-penitent privilege under state law.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that church members who lost their membership for violating a church bylaw ban on suing the church lost their right as members to inspect church records, and that the civil courts have the limited authority to determine if the church bylaws were duly adopted.

A dispute arose among the members of a church, which divided the congregation into two factions. One faction included the board of deacons (the "defendants"). An attorney for the other ...

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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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