Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Invasion of Privacy Lawsuit
The dangers of communicating potentially damaging information about employees.
Illinois
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Key point 2-04.1. Most courts have concluded that they are barred by the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom and nonestablishment of religion from resolving challenges by dismissed clergy to the legal validity of their dismissals.

Key point 4-04. Many states recognize "invasion of privacy" as a basis for liability. Invasion of privacy may consist of any one or more of the following: (1) public disclosure of private facts; (2) use of another person's name or likeness; (3) placing someone in a "false light" in the public eye; or (4) intruding upon another's seclusion.

An Illinois court ruled that it was not barred by the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom from resolving a pastor's "invasion of privacy" lawsuit against a church that had sent out a letter containing information that damaged his reputation and led to his unemployment as a minister. A pastor (the "plaintiff") was ordained by a local church (Church A) in 1989. A few years later he became pastor of Church B. He thereafter resigned this position and became senior pastor of Church C, a nondenominational church. While serving as pastor of Church C, he received a letter from the board of Church A requesting that he respond to "disturbing reports" they received about his conduct and informing him that if he did not respond they would rescind his ordination. The letter listed six charges against him, including the following:

(1) You have had an improper relationship with a divorced single woman, violating the biblical teaching that an elder be above reproach. (2) Your decision to file a divorce petition against your wife violates the Biblical admonition that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church. (3) Your misuse of alcohol violates the biblical admonition that an elder be temperate, self-controlled. (4) Your misuse of your personal funds as well as the deceitful means used to obtain the [Church C] Bank account violates biblical admonition that an elder should not be a lover of money.

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