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Church Member's Defamation Suit Dismissed

Defamation usually cannot be proved without evidence of a false statement.

Louisiana
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Key Point 4-02.03. 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.

A Louisiana court ruled that a minister did not defame a church member in an article he wrote for the church bulletin since the article did not contain a false statement concerning the member. A church member (the "plaintiff"), who had previously served as the church's bookkeeper, ...

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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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  • September 1, 2009

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