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Defamation in Church Business Meetings

Courts can resolve defamation claims that do not involve interpretation of religious doctrine.

Georgia
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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.

A Georgia court ruled that it was not barred by the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom from resolving the defamation claim of a deacon who was falsely accused of adultery and theft of church assets by a member at a church business meeting. At the close of a church business meeting, a member (the "defendant"), who was not on the agenda, stood up and demanded to read a written declaration that he had prepared. In front of all those present, he read aloud from the document, accusing a deacon (the "plaintiff") of having committed adultery on various occasions and of having attempted to steal money from the church. In fact, ...

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Posted:
  • March 1, 2013

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