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When Can Members Inspect Church Records?

Know how to respond when a member of your church asks for access to your records.

New York

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.

A New York court ruled that a church member had the legal authority to inspect church records despite the pastor's refusal to allow him to do so.

Most church leaders are not sure how to respond when a member asks to inspect church records. Do members have a legal right to have access to church records? If so, under what conditions? Are there exceptions? These are very relevant and important questions for which church leaders should have answers. A recent New York case addresses ...

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  • July 1, 2009

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