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Defamation and Proof of Injury to Reputation

Injury to reputation is not always presumed in cases of false accusations.

New Mexico
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Key point 4-02. Defamation consists of (1) oral or written statements about another person; (2) that are false; (3) that are "published" (that is, communicated to other persons); and (4) that injure the other person's reputation.

Key point 4-02.02. Ministers are considered "public figures" and as a result they cannot be defamed unless the person making an otherwise defamatory remark did so with malice. In this context, malice means that the person making the defamatory remark either had actual knowledge that it was false or made it with a reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity.

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that defamation requires proof of actual injury to reputation, and that injury to reputation will not be presumed even in cases of false accusations of pedophilia, and as a result a pastor who was falsely accused of pedophilia could not sue the perpetrators for defamation without ...

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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, 2013

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