Removing Disruptive Individuals
Removing Disruptive Individuals
What to do with unwelcome visitors.

Does a church have the legal authority to remove disruptive individuals from church services? This issue has been addressed by a number of courts. Generally, the courts have been sympathetic to attempts by churches to deny access to disruptive individuals.

To illustrate, a Connecticut court agreed that a church could bar a disruptive individual from entering onto church premises. It noted that "there was ample evidence that the defendant entered church property, on the three occasions charged, as a knowing trespasser. The record reveals that the defendant had been unequivocally informed and understood that his privilege to attend church services had been revoked …. The record here is replete with evidence that this defendant knew that he was trespassing upon church property and was unwelcome at services." With regard to the defendant's claim that a church is "public property" and that one cannot be convicted of trespassing for attending services, the court observed that "property does not lose its private character merely because the public is generally invited to use it for designated purposes …. The owner or one in lawful possession has the right to determine whom to invite, the scope of the invitation and the circumstances under which the invitation may be revoked." As to the defendant's claim that his constitutional rights were violated by his conviction for attending church services, the court observed that there is "no constitutional right to 'freedom of movement' or 'freedom of worship' on private property where there is no license or privilege to be there." State v. Steinmann, 569 A.2d 557 (Conn. App. 1990).

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Posted: November 3, 2008
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