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Malicious Statements

Court rules that committee's statements are protected by "qualified privilege."

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 appeals court ruled that a church's finance committee members did not commit defamation by sending a letter to a denominational office recounting several examples of financial irregularities involving a former pastor. A church hired a new pastor ("Pastor Tim"). ...

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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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  • March 1, 2010