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Inspection of Church Membership Lists

When is a church required to turn over its membership list for inspection?

Key point 6-03.4. Church donor and membership lists are subject to government inspection, so long as the government has a compelling interest in obtaining this information.

A federal bankruptcy court ruled that a creditor was not entitled to obtain the names of the members of a church that was in bankruptcy. A financial institution (the "creditor") loaned money to a church that later filed for bankruptcy. The creditor asked the court to compel the church to disclose the identities and residential addresses of all of its members. A court declined to order the church to turn over its membership list, for two reasons.


The court concluded that the church's membership list was irrelevant to the creditor's desire to assess the church's ability to pay its debts:

At the core, discovery must focus on relevant information. The court fails to see how a membership list is relevant to [the creditor's] ...

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  • March 1, 2013

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